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    Posted March 9, 2015 by
    ecotraveler
    Location
    Murrells Inlet, South Carolina
    Assignment
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    First Person: Your essays

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    Knock Knock! Who's There? A Pelican. A Pelican Who?

     

    A pelican who knows how much fish a pelican bellycan hold, is an old joke.
    And this pelican may know more than most.
    The sun finally made its way all the way east to coastal South Carolina by the end of the week, and revived winter-weary people as they flocked to Murrells Inlet for seafood, judging by the crowds there.
    Temperatures have been inching up over the past week, so locals and tourists came out to take advantage of the first warm-wave to hit the south in the long cold 2015 winter.
    Known as the "Seafood Capital of the World," Murrells Inlet is home to marinas filled with commercial fishing boats, seafood shops, and a long row of popular restaurants serving some of the best and freshest local seafood in the state.
    Restaurants that have steadily grown in popularity there lure locals and tourists with fresh seafood and catchy names like Bubbas Love Shack, Wahoos, Creek Rats and Dead Dog Saloon.
    So it's not surprising this very young and very hungry Brown Pelican followed his nose to find a tasty and more importantly easy fish dinner, at a popular fish and sushi restaurant, Wicked Tuna at Crazy Sister Marina.
    To the delight of patrons, he stood by the doors to the restaurant and patiently waited for a handout. Wait staff told me he even tried to sneak inside, so they had to be careful when they opened the doors.
    People wandered outside throughout the afternoon and snapped photos of this young, fuzzy headed little guy on their phones, who hungrily approached open hands.
    He had no qualms about coming up to me after a few minutes and even ventured close enough to examine my camera and have a little taste of its dangling lens cover with his large bill.
    He followed my hand for only a few steps as I tried to lure him out to the fish-filled marsh only a few feet away, but he quickly returned to where he'd planted himself.
    Perhaps he hatched on someone's water side lawn, because he clearly prefers humans and cooked fish to the wild just beyond the deck that the rest of the Pelicans, Egrets, and even Oyster Catchers frequent.
    The inlet is filled with oysters and fish swim in with the tide to feed the hungry birds.
    To anyone who's ever visited a beach, the Brown Pelican may seem a plentiful species but they and Oystercatchers have both had their challenges. Brown Pelicans have been listed as Endangered over the past 50 years, and one species of Oystercatcher went completely extinct in the 19th century.
    Patrons enjoy the pelicans that often sit on the railings surrounding the outside deck, but Wickeds manager said this one had been at the door for days, and he apparently had no plans to leave anytime soon I noticed when I went back over the next few days.
    He plodded longingly across the large deck, following wait staff and their carts when they would come outside.
    They said they'd been careful not to feed him, hoping he would fly out to feed in the vast waters of the marsh where wading birds were catching dinner on these sunny days, or to the ocean only a short distance away.
    But this pelican had no such ambitions. A lemon slipped from a tray and he quickly scooped it up in true pelican fashion, only to drop it, then scoop it, then ultimately drop it despite how hungry he apparently has grown.
    As the sun began to set, the other pelicans finished preening and flew off when temperatures suddenly dropped to the 40s.
    This young pelican however, walked across the deck to the windows and looked in from table to table, to apparently choose where he would spend the night.
    One table of four got closer to the window and pulled out their phones to photograph the friendly bird.
    As the marsh grew dark and music and laughter floated out from the restaurants, the pelicans flew off to their roosts but he drew closer to the diners, hunkered down between the tables outside, and closed his eyes to sleep.

     

    UPDATE, as promised:

    Thank you all for your comments and private messages. We've contacted some rescue and rehab places with the proper permits to transport and house him before the big barbecue fund raiser there for Special Olympics this weekend.

    In a perfect world, he'd be treated for any medical issues then be paired with an adult to see if he matures so he could be released.  And, if not - like the little Eaglet in VA I wrote about here, he'd be offered a peli-suitable home and live out his days happy as an educator with the humans he clearly prefers-at least for now. That's what I've been used to, but am in a new location now so it's taken longer. Some wildlife, especially birds become too imprinted with humans to ever be able to function in the wild.

    To their credit, the mgmt and staff is working very hard to keep guests from feeding him, so he will lose interest and go fishing like he's supposed to. This may be one of those times when a bird is too imprinted to ever be trained to make it in the wild so we're working hard to find the best location for him, all the while crossing fingers that one day, we will see him in the marsh with the other pelis fishing. Everyone's been so kind and working hard to find the place best for him.

    Thank you all for your concern, comments and suggestions! Stay tuned.

    FINAL UPDATE 3/13: Thank you all again for your comments, suggestions, private messages and concern so here is the latest on him.  Initially, this was just a story about a little pelican that could, but wouldn't.  As time went on however, it became clear he had no intentions or capabilities to leave the restaurant or humans and could ultimately become sick or injured.

    After over a week of his charming and overly friendly behavior, the restaurant coined him, LB for "Little Brown."

    I'm happy to report after a lot of research and phone calls,  LB is now in the capable hands of Birds of Prey at Awendaw.

    They have their own medical facility there and are equipped and permited to rescue and rehab pelicans and place them if they are too imprinted or otherwise unsuited to survive in the wild.

    Throughout this process I learned many Brown Pelicans, previously listed as "Endangered" did not survive the harsh winter of 2015, so to all who wrote to me with concern, please rest easy knowing that LB is one of the lucky ones.

    Thank you again to all who made his rescue and survival possible.

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