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Rescued American White Pelicans at Brookfield Zoo
Chicago Zoological Society’s Animal Programs staff released five American white pelicans at Brookfield Zoo’s Formal Pool on Tuesday, August 24, 2010. The birds were rescued from the Gulf Coast as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

All five birds, which were slightly to moderately oiled, were rescued from the Mississippi Canyon area off the coast of Louisiana. Prior to the oil spill, they had sustained wing injuries that prevented them from migrating this past spring to their northern breeding range. When the oil spill occurred, the pelicans joined other wildlife species that needed human intervention.


American White Pelicans released at Brookfield Zoo

The pelicans arrived at Brookfield Zoo in mid-July, at which time they were given complete physicals by staff veterinarians and placed in a routine 30-day quarantine at the zoo’s Animal Hospital. Now, cleared from quarantine, the birds are taking up year-round residence at the zoo’s Formal Pool, where they will serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts to help educate zoo guests about the effects the oil spill has had on the wildlife in the Gulf.

“The Chicago Zoological Society was happy to be able to assist with this collaborative rescue effort by providing these pelicans with a permanent home where they will receive the best possible care,” said Tim Snyder, curator of birds and reptiles for the Chicago Zoological Society. “It has been several decades since Brookfield Zoo has had this species in its animal collection. Being one of the largest birds in North America, they are quite impressive and will hopefully be a favorite among zoo guests.”


American White Pelicans under water fountain at Brookfield Zoo

Prior to coming to Brookfield Zoo, the pelicans were held at Jackson Zoo in Mississippi until permanent homes could be found for them. Brookfield Zoo was one of four zoos that received rehabilitated white pelicans from Jackson Zoo.

American white pelicans weigh up to 20 pounds and measure 4 to 6 feet in length, with a wingspan of approximately 9 feet. Their plumage is white, with the exception of black-edged wings that are visible in flight. Their long, orange bill is between 10 to 14.5 inches long, and their orange legs are short, with big, webbed feet.

Although not endangered, the pelican population is increasingly threatened due to habitat loss caused by flooding and droughts, as well as contamination. In addition, they face human-related threats, such as discarded fishing line and plastics, boating disturbances, and disturbance of nest sites.