A Pelican Drops By to Say Hello


Injured Pelican

A pelican was caught in duck decoy wires in the waters around the Quaker Oats plant in Cedar Rapids. Hunters were able to cut him out of the lines and off he flew.

When the men noticed he was still in the decoy area several weeks later, they investigated. The pelican still had line wrapped around his wings and over his back.

The pelican was caught and brought to Dr. Cherney via Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project.

pelicanPelicans are relatively easy birds to work with minus the two-foot beak flapping around. Once you get that secured, things are much easier.



The pouch on a pelican has a rather interesting feel. Somewhat velvety and smooth. Here you can see all the blood vessels that go throughout this stretchy skin.


Knocking Out a Pelicandog being masked down

Anesthetically speaking, of course.

Think about how people or animals are masked down for surgery. There is a nice little cone that goes over the face. The animal breathes in the anesthetic and it is night-night time.

What do you do when the “face” has a two-foot beak?

You improvise!

pelican being masked down

Tape together 2 bottles about 1 gallon each and cut an opening a little wider for the beak/head area and voila! Custom fit anesthesia mask for a pelican.

The trick then becomes trying to seal all the opens as best we can. And because this chamber is so big, it took a while for him to get sleepy. But it did work!


The Exam

Dr. Cherney evaluated the wings and legs to see if anything is broken. She didn’t feel anything or see any indication of a break, but the shoulder felt funny. An x-ray reveals that while nothing is broken, both of his shoulders are dislocated. Ouch!

xray of pelican with dislocated shoulders

This means he can’t be released into the wild again. What wildlife rehabbers will try is to find him placement in a zoo or similar setting. BHWRP has placed several pelicans in zoos where he will have a pond or lake and access to food without having to hunt on his own.

Dr. Cherney had several major wounds to treat. The wounds were old and like a big tear in the skin. She thoroughly flushed and cleaned the areas to prevent infection. After the cleaning and a bit of suturing, Lori is hopeful these will heal nicely.

What Is Next?pelicans in zoo

Mr. Pelican needs much R & R. The wounds should heal, but the dislocated shoulders will remain. Doctors aren’t able to “pop” them back into place like you might on a person. Our hope is he will be able to find a zoo to live out his days lounging, swimming around, and gulping down fish.

Learn more about pelicans from the Cornell Ornithology Lab.