Pelican flies free after emergency care

| 10/03/2010

(CNS): Cayman Wildlife Rescue volunteers have successfully released a juvenile Brown Pelican that was rescued in Pease Bay. The pelican was found by a concerned member of the public in February during rough weather.  When the bird did not fly away when approached, it was apparent it was suffering as a result of the weather and needed emergency care. Volunteers captured the pelican and took it to Island Veterinary Services where the vet said the bird was slightly underweight and dehydrated.  The Pelican was taken to the Cayman Wildlife Rescue facility, where a dedicated band of volunteers ensured that he was fed sprats twice a day. 

He was also sprayed with fresh water everyday to keep his feathers waterproofed.  This is the second pelican received this winter season into the programme, the first was rescued in December, exhausted from its migration it had struck a power line. 

“It’s quite common that migratory birds will be suffering from exhaustion, in this state they are prone to injury and in the past have collided with power lines or have been struck by cars,” Alison Corbett Project Manager of Cayman Wildlife said. “Fortunately, pelicans do very well in care and have a very high success rate.  We were very pleased to see these pelicans recover quickly and successfully released.”

As a result on Saturday March 6, after a short week in care, the latest pelican guest of the rescue centre was taken back to the area in which he was found and where several other young Pelicans were frequenting.  He immediately took to the water and began bathing and preening.  Shortly after the release the Pelican was joined by four others; the five Pelicans then proceeded to fly together, catching small fish in the shallows.

“Wildlife rescue is a lot of hard work and it was very nice for the team to be able to observe the group of Pelicans in their natural habitat.  It’s releases like this that make all our hard well work worth it,” Corbett added.

Most residents of Grand Cayman are familiar with winter visits of the Brown Pelican.  According to Patricia Bradley’s “Birds of the Cayman Islands” (Caerulea Press, 1995) the brown pelicans that visit Cayman are casual short-stay visitors, although some birds, usually immatures, occasionally overwinter.  They can be found in small groups close inshore in marine sounds.

With spring approaching Cayman Wildlife Rescue is now turning its attention from pelicans to protecting the islands baby birds that fall from their nests and volunteers warn they may not need rescuing. “It is very important that the public take a moment to observe baby birds before assuming they need to be rescued,” Corbett explained.

Concerned members of the public are encouraged to first identify whether the bird is injured, as fallen nestlings and fledglings often are attacked by cats and dogs.  If the bird is injured Cayman Wildlife Rescue should be contacted at 917-BIRD as the bird will require emergency veterinary care.  If the bird is not injured, but is unable to fly it must next be determined to be either a nestling or a fledgling. 

Nestings are bare or covered in downy feathers.  When you have found a nestling on the ground, look for a nest nearby.  If there is a nest, the bird can be gently placed back inside the nest and then it should be monitored at a safe distance for the parents to return. 

“Birds do not have a developed sense of smell,” Corbett said.  “There is no truth in the old wives tale that a bird will reject their young if you handle them – in fact most birds have a very poor sense of smell.”

She said however, if there is not a nest nearby or the nest is destroyed, one can be fabricated out of a basket or plastic container drilled with drainage holes.  CWR has a tall ladder to assist with restoring fallen nests and nestlings, the public can call 917-BIRD (2473) for help with this effort.

Once nestlings have been restored, the nest should be monitored for up to 3 hrs for the parents return and people are reminded to never offer a wild animal food or liquids unless instructed.  Great care should also be taken at this time of year when pruning trees, shrubs and palm trees so as to not disturb nesting birds.

Corbett also explained that when people find a fledgling, meaning it is a baby bird learning to fly, it probably won’t need to be rescued.  These young will be alert and hopping around on the ground as they learn flying skills.  Their parents will be nearby, offering them food while they are on the ground.  “If you find a baby bird, well feathered, hopping on the ground the best thing a person can do is watch from a safe distance.  If you have a cat or dog bring it inside and watch for the parents to return,” she said.

 If the bird is not in a safe area, Corbett recommends moving it to a shrub nearby and continue to monitor.  Often fledglings become victim to cats and dogs, if they are injured they will need emergency veterinary care and Cayman Wildlife Rescue should be notified immediately. 

“We strongly encourage responsible pet ownership, cats and dogs should not be allowed to roam freely for their own safety and also for the safety of our wildlife.  One of the most common reasons we see animals come in for care is due to being attacked by cats or dogs,” the bird expert added.

Cayman Wildlife Rescue’s Hotline 917-BIRD (2473) is operated 24/7 to provide support for wildlife in trouble, when a baby bird is found CWR should be contacted for further instruction.    Members of the public should not attempt to care for a baby bird, as they require special diets and have demanding feeding schedules.  CWR should be notified when a baby bird is deemed abandoned so an experienced Wildlife Rehabber can resume its care. 

Cayman Wildlife Rescue is a programme of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.  This project is staffed entirely by volunteers with other full time jobs, and is financed 100% by donations from the public.  If you would like to help by donating funds or volunteering time, please contact Alison Corbett at or visit for more information.

If you come across a wild animal that needs rescue, call the LIME sponsored emergency hotline, 917-BIRD (2473).  For your own safety and that of the animal, members of the public are requested to not attempt to rescue or care for the animal themselves – rather call the hotline and trained volunteers will attend to the animal.



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  1. Anonymous says:

    Has anyone noticed a few John Crows around? I’ve seen one in East End and two in George Town.

    Gosh, everything is changing on this island, even the flora and fauna. Growing up, the only iguanas I saw was at Mr. Ira Thompson’s zoo, never saw a John Crow anywhere else but Jamaica; pelicans, no, not until relatively recently (10-12 years). First I saw a scorpion was two years ago (I’m 50)! Hey, I don’t mind the pelicans but the green iguanas, John Crows and lion fish can go!! 

  2. Animaliberator says:

    Perhaps the RCIPS can issue an immidiate seasonal ban onshooting and killing birds of any kind in order for the parent birds to complete raising their offspring until they can fly and fend for themselves to survive.

    This could probably be one of the reasons why the re-population of certain wildlife birds in general is growing so slow post hurrican Ivan.

    Besides certain bats, birds are the main pollinators of the world and must be preserved at all cost. Our own lives depend on that too!

    • feathered friend says:

      All wild birds are already protected in the Cayman Islands, under the Animals Law. This includes common birds, such as Ching-chings. Even "game birds" (Blue-winged teal, White-crowned pigeon, White-winged dove) are semi-protected (e.g. by bag limits and closed seasons). Slow repopulation of birdlife is due more to the severe losses suffered during Ivan, compounded by loss of natural habitat to development, speculative land clearence and landscaping with non-native trees. Enforcing the law is difficult. As with many countries in the world, wildlife crime is generally viewed by many as being a "low priority".

    • Anonymous says:

      "main pollinators of the world"

      acutally its BEES but who’s counting   ;  )

  3. Anonymous says:

    fly pelican fly!


    Good job Cayman Wildlife!