Pelican Whose Pouch Was Lacerated Is Released Into the Wild

Good news for Care2 bird lovers! Pink the pelican, named for the original pink band around its leg, has been released.

Care2′s Jessica Ramos brought you the news last month that on April 16 a concerned person alerted animal authorities in Long Beach, Calif., about a brown pelican that was acting peculiar. The bird appeared to be in distress and was just “flopping” around. When authorities arrived, they found a bird that was obviously cold and painfully skinny, and whose pouch had been slashed.

As Ramos explained, this did not appear to be a bird that had accidentally got caught on a fishing line or hook. At least one person had to probably use a lot of force to hold down the bird and cut through its pouch. The brown pelican was in so much pain that she couldn’t self-feed and she would’ve surely died a slow and painful death without intervention.

Fortunately, the brown pelican was eventually transferred to the San Pedro facility of International Bird Rescue (IBR), where it  took two surgeries and 600 stitches to repair the mutilated pouch beneath the long, light brown bill.

On June 3, Pink came dashing out, wings up and taking flight for the first time since beginning recovery from the brutal attack.

As the Los Angeles Times reports:

The small crowd who had come to witness Pink’s release cheered and clapped as they watched the brown pelican fly to nearby rocks where other birds had gathered.

Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino was the one to open the metal door on the animal carrier.

Pink’s ordeal made headlines across California and resonated with bird lovers and fellow animal advocacy organizations, spawning a $20,000 reward to find the person who slashed the pelican’s pouch. The Port of Long Beach also donated $5,000 toward the bird’s surgical and rehab needs.

An Endangered Species

The brown pelican was one of the first species to be listed as endangered, largely due to the effects of the pesticide DDT and widespread slaughter by fisherman during World War II.

It worked! The population rebounded, and the bird was removed from the endangered species list in 2009. Still, federal law makes it illegal to kill or harm migratory birds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Good News For California Brown Pelicans

While news of Pink’s recovery is wonderful, but there’s even more good news for California Brown Pelicans!

Since 2009, things have not gone well for the pelicans. Breeding has been poor or nearly absent at the Channel Islands, and this year productivity has also been poor at all colonies monitored in Mexico, on the Pacific and Gulf sides, in addition to California.

However, in the past year, the Audubon network has been urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to better track and protect pelicans that are experiencing unprecedented breeding failures in the U.S. and Mexico, and die-offs in the U.S., linked to low abundance of key forage fish.

In response to this pressure, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to allocate funding to complete essential monitoring and analysis of the status of breeding pelicans at their only U.S. breeding colony.

Although the California Brown Pelican subspecies ranges from Baja Mexico through British Columbia, their breeding is restricted to southern California and Mexico. In the U.S., breeding colonies exist only at Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands in the U.S. Channel Islands.

These well-protected islands host about 20 percent of the global breeding population of the California Brown Pelican subspecies.

When the Audubon Society learned late last year that no colony monitoring at all would take place due to service funding shortfalls — which would interrupt a 45 year unbroken monitoring record – they teamed with International Bird Rescue and the Pacific Seabird Group to lean on the service to ensure pelicans are not ignored.

The Audubon Society has also been able to raise enough funds to support a leading pelican expert to monitor early season nesting at the Channel Islands. Dave Weeshoff, board member of San Fernando Valley Audubon, says: “We were happy to team with other chapters in the Audubon network to ensure our beloved pelicans do not fall through the cracks. Now we are looking to the Fish and Wildlife Service to track and protect these birds through hard times.”

And yet the question remains: why did someone go through the trouble of forcefully holding down a brown pelican just to inflict pain?

The $20,00 reward is still out there.

Photo Credit: LA Times online video


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Jonathan Harper
Jonathan H3 years ago


Alexandra G.
Alexandra G3 years ago

great article, thanks

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

I remember reading about Pink when this first happened. I cried for her then, and I am crying for her now, because she has been saved and released back to her freedom!!

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Fisherman are another breed who will maim and injure any animal that they deem to be in competition with. Poor Pink just got in the way. I hope karma catches up to this evil person,

Roxana Saez
Roxana S3 years ago


Mandy H.
Mandy H3 years ago

Good to know that he got well enough to be released again :)

Charlene Rush
Charlene Rush3 years ago

How can you not love people who spend their lives healing animals?

Karen Ryan
Karen R3 years ago

That poor bird went through a terrible ordeal because of very sick person. I hope they can catch him before he hurts another animal or person. I can't imagine how they could possibly catch him, though, unless someone who knows what he did tips off the police.

Sue Griffiths
SUE Griffiths3 years ago

Thank you to all involved in recuperating Pink.