Blown off course: Seabird makes unplanned visit to the high desert

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By Jennifer R. Carnes

Wednesday night’s monsoon storms did more than just bring cooler, wetter weather to the Tri-Community. It also blew in a visitor from the coast.

On Thursday, July 5, travelers Don and Sheila Goetz noticed that a rather odd looking bird was sitting on the side of Highway 77 in Oracle – odd only in sense that you rarely see a sea bird in the desert.

Miner and Crier Publisher James Carnes happened along the scene and stopped, thinking there may have been an accident. He had his camera ready, recording the event for the newspapers.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Lieutenant Vern Havens also stopped to help slow down traffic in the area to keep the bird from flying off. But seeing how tired the little guy was, flying off didn’t seem likely.

Wildlife Rehabilitation Volunteer Kathie Schroeder arrived to take control of the bird so it could be released back into the wild.

No one at the scene really knew exactly what kind of bird he was but suspicions were high that he was a pelican. Once the photos of the visitor were on hand, we whipped out our National Audubon Society Field Guide to Birds to see what kind of bird he was. Neither photo of the brown pelican or the American white pelican looked anything like the ones James had taken. So we decided to send it out to our readers.

The Miner posted the bird’s photo on our website at www.copperarea.com and on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/copperarea asking our readers to let us know what they thought. Facebook Fans Ashley Allen and Tiffany Denning Parisot quickly sent comments that they believed the bird to be a brown pelican. Ashley also shared a link which showed a photo of a juvenile brown pelican. Bingo! That’s what he is – a brown pelican, just a young one.

Mark Hart, Public Information Officer for Arizona Game and Fish, confirmed it.

“Having spent many years living in Florida I’d say that was a brown pelican,” he said. “The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum used to transport these coastal birds back to California.”

He added that “this is not an uncommon occurrence.”

According to Birdweb.org, “The Brown Pelican is a coastal bird that is rarely found away from the sea. The birds on the Pacific Coast nest on islands off the coasts of southern California and Mexico. After breeding season, they move north along the coast, frequenting shallow marine areas such as bays, offshore islands, spits, breakwaters and open sandy beaches.”

Thanks so much, Ashley and Tiffany, for helping us identify our visitor.

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Wildlife rehab volunteer Kathie Schroeder carefully handles the pelican before placing him in a carrier for transport. (James Carnes photo)


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