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Thriving Pelican Proposed For Delisting

Channel Islands National Park

National Park News

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne has formally proposed removing the California brown pelican from the federal list of threatened and endangered species along with the remaining protected populations of brown pelicans along the Gulf and Pacific Coasts, Caribbean, and Central and South America.

The Channel Islands support the two primary breeding colonies of California brown pelicans on the west coast of the United States, with rookeries on Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands.

California brown pelicans were declared federally endangered in 1970 after a drastic decline in reproductive success was observed. The cause of this decline was attributed to high levels of DDT in the food chain, which resulted in eggshells so thin that the eggs were crushed during incubation. 

In 1970, only one chick out of 550 nests in the West Anacapa pelican colony survived, leaving this subspecies on the verge of extirpation. DDT was banned in 1972 and pelican reproduction began improving by the late 1970s. 

“The recovery of pelicans is a tremendous milestone for conservation in our country,” said superintendent Russell Galipeau. “This species has been safeguarded by the Endangered Species Act, as well as sheltered within a national park, on remote islands that provide undisturbed nesting and roosting habitat.”

The pelican population on West Anacapa Island has averaged at about 4,600 nesting pairs annually during the past decade. In 2004, the Anacapa breeding population peaked at nearly 8,000 nesting pairs while the lowest number in the past ten years was in 2003 with 2,700 nesting pairs. To the south on neighboring Santa Barbara Island, there has been an annual average of about 1,500 nesting pairs in the past ten years, with an estimated high of 4,000 nests occurring in 2006.


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