Its bill can hold more than its belly can!
“There’s a pelican at Joe Patti’s!” our friend shouted into the telephone. We frantically called several other birders, grabbed binoculars and ran to the car in hopes of seeing just one pelican. We got to the fish market and found a lone juvenile pelican standing on the slippery boat launch slope, and a group of other birders training binoculars on this wayward bird, the first seen in Pensacola in many years.This was in July 1969 when Brown Pelicans were among the rarest of the rare birds along the Gulf Coast. Francis M. Weston wrote in his 1968 book, The Birdlife of Northwestern Florida, “since 1957, [the pelican has been] rare or absent all along the coast as far west as Texas. Some calamity…has practically exterminated the species in the whole of the western Gulf.”Weston hypothesized that Hurricane Audrey had decimated the breeding grounds in June 1957, and indeed that had had a detrimental effect but that was not all. It was not until the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962 that the world realized the downfall of many species was due to the insecticide DDT.

Prior to the demise of Pensacola’s pelicans, they had flourished here often found feasting around docks where fishermen cleaned their catch and tossed scraps overboard.

Today, we take Brown Pelicans for granted as well as Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles. No longer do their eggs crush under the weight of an incubating parent. Why? Our Nation acted with resolve in banning this synthetic insecticide, and established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the mission to protect human health and the environment. (See the EPA mission statement below.)

Since those precarious days when some species were on the brink of extinction, many birds and other fauna have rebounded with protections provided by the EPA’s fair enforcement of environmental laws. The Brown Pelican is a symbol of those successes. For those of us in Pensacola, one look at the map and you see that the Bay is the central point of our community.

It’s where we enjoy the beauty of our coastal city, where the seafood we love spawns and grows, where ships from afar make port, where we swim and boat and fish, and where we enjoy watching pelicans dive into schools of mullet. The pelican is a success story. And it’s our FMWAS chosen Bird of the Year. So when we see Brown Pelicans over the bay, let’s remember that protecting what we love can be achieved. Together our community can protect Pensacola Bay and ensure its productive future for everyone.

The EPA works to ensure that:

  • Americans have clean air, land and water;
  • National efforts to reduce environmental risks are based on the best available scientific information;
  • Federal laws protecting human health and the environment are administered and enforced fairly, effectively and as Congress intended;
  • Environmental stewardship is integral to U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy;
  • All parts of society–communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments–have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks;
  • Contaminated lands and toxic sites are cleaned up by potentially responsible parties and revitalized; and
  • Chemicals in the marketplace are reviewed for safety.

By Lucy Duncan