Carolina Pelicans

July 13, 2016

In 1929 a Federal Conservation Agent named William L. Birsch traveled to a small island called Royal Shoal in Pamlico Sound, near Ocracoke.  It was an island know for nesting waterbirds like terns and skimmers, protected by the National Audubon Society, and said to have one of the largest tern colonies on the Atlantic coast.  In this year he found something different.  He found 14 large, bulky nests of Brown Pelicans. As records have it, he was the first ever to document Brown Pelicans nesting in North Carolina and the sate became the northern limit of the species' range.

Fast forward 48 years and a second colony of nesting pelicans to be discovered in the lower Cape Fear River between Wilmington and Southport. Between 1929 and 1977 fewer than 100 pelicans nested in North Carolina, but the establishment of the second colony in the Cape Fear River marked the beginning of an upward trend in pelicans nesting along the North Carolina coast.

By 1987 there were about 2,000 pelicans nesting in North Carolina and by 1993, the number had grown to more than 3,000 nesting pairs at 7 colony sites.  Today, there are some 4,500 nesting pairs along the North Carolina coast and they have since moved northward as far as Maryland.

Abundant, common throughout the year, and thriving along the Carolina coast because the nesting sites they depend on are protected by the National Audubon Society and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.

 


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