• A
  • B
  • C
  • D
  • E
  • F
  • G
  • H
  • I
  • J
  • K
  • L
  • M
  • N
  • O
  • P
  • Q
  • R
  • S
  • T
  • U
  • V
  • W
  • X
  • Y
  • Z
  • #

Off endangered list, California brown pelicans still need our help

Young California brown pelican is tagged with leg band.
Young California brown pelican is tagged with leg band.


The successful recovery effort for the once-endangered California brown pelican is evident every summer through fall on Breakwater Island, an area that forms the beginning of the Alameda Point Channel leading to the ship docks and Seaplane Lagoon. The breakwater is a wall of boulders built up from the bay floor to reduce wave action in the harbor.

California brown pelicans were listed as an endangered species in 1970. The pesticide DDT was identified as the cause of their decline. It caused reproductive harm and altered the birds’ calcium absorption, which led to thin eggshells that would break under the parents’ weight. 

A recovery effort was launched on Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Santa Barbara. The only breeding colonies of California brown pelicans in the western United States are within Channel Islands National Park on West Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands.

In the summer and fall, the brown pelicans can range from nesting colonies in Mexico and the Channel Islands all the way up to British Columbia. Alameda Point’s Breakwater Island is the largest roosting site in San Francisco Bay. A safe, secure roosting area is essential for pelicans to rest, preen, dry their feathers, maintain body temperature and socialize.

One of the pelicans photographed on Breakwater Island on a kayak trip in October turned out to have a blue band on its leg that read "K69." A check with the International Bird Rescue clinic in Cordelia revealed that K69 had been brought to the clinic July 9 in a weak and thin condition. A month later, on Aug. 10, K69 was released at Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing.

When the Alameda Naval Air Station was still active, the Navy enforced restrictions against boats landing on Breakwater Island and posted signs that warn against disturbing the birds.  Since the base closed, there has been no one to enforce those regulations. 

California brown pelicans 2The California brown pelican was removed from the Endangered Species List in 2009 after an almost 30-year recovery. There is currently no plan to look out for the welfare of these magnificent birds at Alameda Point after the base is transferred out of Navy hands. A wildlife refuge or a wildlife conservation area operated by the East Bay Regional Park District would be one way to ensure adequate protections and provide public education and appreciation of this unique ecological asset at Alameda Point.

More photos of the Breakwater Island pelicans are on the Alameda Point Environmental Report.

For more information on California brown pelicans, visit the Channel Islands National Park website.

Discuss & Contribute

— Citizen Contributions and Discussion

Comments are loading ...

The Bay Citizen thanks our sponsors
The Bay Citizen thanks our sponsors