Project Pelican is part of a wider project focusing on obtaining information about populations of Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) breeding across the northern Gulf of Mexico and in the South Atlantic Bight of the U.S.
Study objectives are to (1) document dispersal, seasonal and annual movements, seasonal home range, and site fidelity of marked adult Brown Pelicans among nesting colonies from the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, (2) compare contaminant exposure risk, contaminant levels, and health parameters in adult and nestling Brown Pelicans from various colony sites, and (3) document the relationship of local environmental and nest site characteristics to nestling survival and recruitment.
The study addresses information gaps relative to Brown Pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico and the South Atlantic Bight and provides baseline ecological information. In particular, limited information is known regarding foraging behavior for this species and the general ecology of immature eastern Brown Pelicans is also poorly understood. The project is intended to address data gaps for management agencies as it pertains to development of additional oil and gas projects in the Gulf, and the potential development of offshore wind energy on the Atlantic coast.
To date, we have used tracking data to analyze preferred marine habitat characteristics and analyze individual and colony-wide variation in home ranges, habitat characteristics, and migratory patterns. We have also collected breeding data from several colonies across the Northern Gulf of Mexico including chick survival from hatch to fledge, chick body condition, chick stress levels, chick diet composition, and nestling provisioning rates. We have color-banded 600 pelican nestlings and are conducting an ongoing citizen science effort (through the development of this website and the Project Pelican initiative) to re-sight color bands and investigate the dispersal patterns and survival of juveniles during their first winter.
Future analysis will focus on comparing health, contaminant loads, and stress across colony sites, determining genetic correlates of migratory behavior, and investigating drivers of local-scale variation in nesting success and chick survival.
Funding for this project is provided by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. Geological Survey.