There are advantages to being a “Pelican Partner” for International Bird Rescue! First, you get to tour one of their California centers, you get a special opportunity to see a Pelican getting its final medical exam and numbered leg band, plus you get the honor of releasing one, or in my case, two of their rehabilitated pelicans!

International Bird Rescue is famous for their oil spill response team and saving oiled birds but many of the birds that come to International Bird Rescue’s rehabilitation centers (as seen in the video above) are impacted by fishing line and hooks, having ingested and/or been debilitated by carelessly discarded monofilament line that has wrapped around their limbs and wings.

Such was the case with the two juvenile Brown Pelicans I was chosen to release back into the wild. Their release process began with inspecting and banding the birds.

The pelicans heads are covered to help keep them calm while working on them. Here Angela and Isabel begin the banding and inspection of one of the juveniles before crating them for the trip to the release site.


Here they are applying the metal leg band…

Brown Pelican

then measuring the bill to discern the gender of the bird (males bills are about 10% longer than females).

Brwon Pelican

Part of the final inspection is to check the pouch for any problems. As you can see, the pelican’s large gular pouch is full of blood vessels and nerves.

Brown Pelican

The two juvenile pelicans are then put in a carrying crate for the trip to the release point at Fort Baker in Sausalito. I follow my friend, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator for International Bird Rescue, Cheryl Reynolds to the release site where we document the event.

Brown Pelican Release

You may notice the conspicuous blue plastic band on this pelican’s leg. Since 2009, International Bird Rescue has released over 1,100 California Brown Pelicans with blue bands from their wildlife hospitals! They are currently running their Second-Annual Banded Pelican Contest. If you spot one of these blue banded birds, you can help by reporting it and contribute to this important citizen science project helping the conservation of this amazing species.

Even more importantly, right now you can become a member of International Bird Rescue and double any donation you make! So as Arnold would say, “Do it! Do it now!”

In the meantime, this is a video/slideshow I put together of what was one of the most memorable experiences in my birding life, my International Bird Rescue Pelican Release.


Written by Larry
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Urban Bird Foundation. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Pass.