Pelican gets Christmas release

On Christmas Eve, a pelican dubbed Kingfisher was returned by National Trust wildlife rescue volunteers to the George Town fisherman’s beach traditionally known as Red Spot.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher gets a hand from Armando Wright.

Armando Wright phoned the Trust a few days before Christmas to say that he thought the friendly bird might have a sore throat and that it wasn’t as active as it should be. Another fisherman, Luis Tatum, had removed a fish from the bird’s pouch that seemed to have been swallowed backwards and become stuck.

Volunteer, Lisa Bortolotto took time from her busy pre-Christmas schedule to help Armando capture the bulky bird and transport it to Island Veterinary Services in a cardboard TV box that she resourcefully salvaged from behind an appliance store.

The pelican was examined by Dr. Elizabeth Broussard and though no serious injury or illness was found, the bird was kept overnight for observation. The next day, it was determined that the pelican was ready to be released but as it was now Christmas Eve, Lois Blumenthal, who coordinates the program was worried about follow-up care and observation. However, after meeting with Armando and the other fishermen who agreed to watch over Kingfisher during the holidays, she was happy to bring the lucky bird back to his home away from home at Red Spot.

While pelicans do not breed in the Cayman Islands, they do fly here from Cuba and other places during the winter, riding the winds of nor’westers. They often find fishermen and enjoy the friendly Cayman hospitality of men like John McLean, Fred Ebanks, Luis Tatum, Armando Wright and others who willingly share fishy tidbits from the day’s catch. The pelicans amuse not only the fishermen, but tourists and locals as well, adding to Cayman’s biodiversity and enhancing the country’s tourist product.

Dr. Elizabeth noted that when a pelican’s belly is full, it will sometimes store extra fish in its pouch. This can create a lumpy uncomfortable-looking bulge that doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a problem. As the pelican digests his meal and more space is available in the stomach, it can usually swallow the extra fish with no trouble.

‘It’s wonderful that these fishermen are so caring and interested in the welfare of this wild bird and we think this could be the beginning of a new partnership that would benefit all our seabirds’ said Teresa Strad, who also volunteers for the project. ‘This pelican is quite young and appears to enjoy the care and feeding of his new-found foster-parents. As the year progresses and other pelicans make their way here, we hope ‘Kingfisher’ will eventually join them for a return flight to his home nesting grounds.’

If you find an injured bird or other wild animal in trouble, the first step is to take it to Island Veterinary Services for examination and treatment. The National Trust has a special fund that will cover the costs and also assists with the follow-up care and eventual returns to the wild. Always tell the vet the exact location where an animal is found so it can be returned to its home territory. If you need assistance, or if you aren’t sure whether an animal needs help, telephone the National Trust Wildlife Program at 916-6784 or 949-0121.

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