Friday, July 01, 2011


I recently stumbled across an on line article about nesting birds of coastal North Carolina. I read the following few paragraphs describing the plight and recovery of brown pelicans. The article is correct. Thirty years ago it was rare to see these marvelous birds around Ocracoke, and almost unheard of to see them any farther north. Today I understand pelicans nest as far north as New Jersey, perhaps even beyond. I quote,

"Brown pelicans were once endangered due to the spraying of DDT pesticide on cornfields. The toxic chemicals bled into the waterways and estuaries into the bellies of fish which were then consumed by water birds such as these. The concentrated pesticide inhibited the ability to lay an egg with a structurally sound shell. And even if those eggs affected by DDT didn't crack when they were laid, they were shattered when the mother tried to roost. At one point, the species was almost wiped out. But after the use of DDT was banned in 1972, it gradually recovered.

"'Thirty years ago,' [Walker ] Golder [deputy director of Audubon North Carlina] explained, "there was only one colony of pelicans in the state around Ocracoke, around 1980."

"Then there were less than 100 brown pelican pairs statewide, but a second colony congregated in the Cape Fear River and the numbers have skyrocketed.

"'Today there's about 4,000,' Golder explains. 'Pelicans are a real success story.'"

You can read the entire article, "For the Birds" by Jenny Yarborough in the Wrightsville Beach online magazine:

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the modern day ghost story, "Ode to Mrs. Godfrey," by guest columnist Tom McDonald. You can read it here:


  1. bill kostar8:18 AM

    We sailed close to Pelican Island on our way back from Portsmouth Island last year and it was literally covered with pelicans. They're absolutely majestic in flight, and rather impressive in the water, but on land...not so much!

  2. Anonymous8:42 AM

    I know I'm "almost there" on Ocracoke Island when I begin to see the pelicans (often in threes) fly past the ferry from Swan Quarter!

    Now, I get such a thrill when I can observe a pelican flying near the view of one of the local web-cams or see pelicans and seagulls wait (sometimes not so patiently) for fish scraps when the boats arrive @ the Ocracoke Harbor Inn pier. How many times have I taken a picture of a pelican resting on a dock? Too numerous to count! I never tire of the scene! Pelicans are amazing creatures and I'm so glad to know the pelican numbers are increasing.

    Philip, did the authorities ever catch the individual(s) killing the pelicans a few months ago? I was incensed to hear of this news.

  3. Very interesting. One of my favorite things to do on Ocracoke is watching the pelicans while eating lunch at Jolly Rogers.

  4. I never heard of any killing of pelicans.

  5. Anonymous9:22 AM

    I believe that the pelican deaths were at Topsail Beach.

  6. Anonymous10:33 AM

    if they were shot perhaps some hothead person on a boat with a fishing pole and a firearm had something to do with it.

  7. Anonymous10:37 AM

    From what I could find on line more than 100 pelicans were deliberately maimed killed shot last winter 2010. It is shocking that the entire coast of North carolina has not heard of this crime against nature. I wonder if Our State will run a story like that?

  8. Anonymous1:19 PM

    Thank you, Anon 10:37 and Anon 9:22 confirming the pelican deaths. It was so senseless! I remember hearing about it for a few weeks and then nothing else was mentioned on the radio. I knew it wasn't in Hatteras or Ocracoke, but couldn't remember what location.

    It takes a very disturbed person to kill innocent pelicans. Hopefully, this type of horrible crime won't happen again.

  9. Anonymous6:57 PM

    A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
    His beak can hold more than his belly can.
    He can hold in his beak
    Enough food for a week!
    But I'll be darned if I know how the hellican.

    --Edward Lear

  10. Anonymous3:01 AM

    Edward Lear????? I thought it was Ogden Nash !!!--- but others credit Dixon Lanire Merritt, editor The Tennessean whatever

  11. Anonymous6:45 AM

    Like the poem!! Funny and true!

  12. Anonymous9:36 AM

    When you roll out the airport ramp and see vehicle jammed door to door because most of the beach is closed. You can thank the same Walker Golder. I do not believe anything that comes out of his mouth.