Pelican Harbor Seabird Station is a non-profit organization in Miami, FL, that is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick, injured or orphaned brown pelicans, seabirds, and other native wildlife.
Most injured birds at the Station have physical injuries caused by fishing tackle. In recent years, the Station has removed all sorts of items from the beaks and bodies of pelicans, including fishing twine, fish lures, bb pellets, and a mousetrap. In addition to the pelicans that they treat and re-release, they also have some pelicans who have permanent injuries that prohibit them from being re-released into the wild.
Pelican Harbor Seabird Station has a strong commitment to the welfare of its residents and patients, so they invest a lot of effort to provide enrichment in every enclosure.
They offer enriching items to their pelicans that most similar facilities don't provide, including but not limited to salt water pools (cleaned and refilled twice daily), various nesting areas, large shelters, plants, sand, live fish, etc. As such, we wish to support them with their enrichment efforts.
What we've accomplished so far:
We performed a study to assess the pelicans' interactions with existing enrichment and coordinated a plan for further enrichment
With a team of great volunteers, we assisted in removing the existing substrate in a bird rehabilitation enclosure so that new substrate can be introduced
We secured donations of seagrape plants for resident pelicans to use for nesting in their enclosures
The Study: Permanent Pelican Residents
Behavioral/Social Enrichment -
The residents of the enclosure do not exhibit any aggression towards each other. Some have paired off and spend much of their time sitting together. When observing the pairs, you will notice that one pelican will present the other with a branch, then the new branch is added to their nest.
Environmental Enrichment -
The enclosure has many structures that the pelicans regularly interact with. There are 2 pools of water (about 4ft. deep) that are both under tall wooden shelters. These pools of water are emptied, cleaned, and refilled with fresh seawater every morning and afternoon. On days that are extremely hot, the pelicans get the benefit of water misting from several strategically placed sprinklers. The shelters tops are covered with plastic turf, providing a slip free surface for pelicans to fly up to and stand on. There is sand on the floor. There are posts of different heights so that pelicans of varying flight abilities can perch. The pelicans also use the several pvc/netting nests that are placed around the enclosure.
The pelicans have shown an interest in interacting with tender branches. Some pelicans can be observed picking up and carrying sticks and branches with their beaks. Other pelicans spend time collecting branches to make nests on the perimeter of the enclosure.
These pelicans receive live food as enrichment. Brown pelicans are the only kind of pelican that dive from the air to catch most of its food. To give the resident pelicans a similar experience, the saltwater pools and large containers are filled with live fish so that the pelicans can dive in and eat them.
The pelicans use their sense of touch when interacting with the branches, leaves, and twigs that are presented to them by the keepers.