NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A Louisiana brown pelican, rescued following the 2010 BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, seemed determined to find its way home after being released in Georgia.
The bird, tagged “Red 33Z,” was found at the Empire Jetties in Barataria Bay on June 14, 2010, according the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Red 33Z was cleaned, then flown to Georgia and released at the U.S. Coast Guard station Brunswick, Georgia, a distance of 700 miles as the pelican flies.
However, this very determined pelican was spotted recently back home in Louisiana.
Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Casey Wright photographed Red 33Z last month on a rock jetty on Queen Bess Island near Grand Isle.
“It’s truly impressive that it made its way back from Georgia,’' Wright said in a news release from LDWF.
While the 33Z tag remains clearly visible on the pelican’s right leg, biologists are not sure when the bird actually flew back to Louisiana.
“Brown pelicans, like most seabirds, are thought to be hard-wired, genetically, to return to their birth colony to breed, despite moving long distances during the non-breeding season,’' said Robert Dobbs, a Wildlife and Fisheries non-game ornithologist. “That may be an overly simplistic generalization, but re-sighting data of banded pelicans often support that pattern.’'
The pelican was one of 582 pelicans successfully rehabbed in the aftermath of the spill, according to state biologists.
More than 5,000 birds, dead and alive, were collected in Louisiana following the blowout of BP’s Macondo oil well in April of 2010.
However, scientists estimate the spill resulted in the deaths of 51,000-84,000 birds.
In the months following the disaster, rehabilitated birds were released outside the impact area to prevent them from finding their way into oil a second time.
The birds were released in Georgia, Texas and Florida. Other pelicans released in other areas have been spotted back in Louisiana, according to state biologists.
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