Injured pelican found on Evanston beach nursed back to health, returns to the wild

Peter Warren, Print Managing Editor

An injured American White pelican found earlier this month in between the Dempster and Greenwood Beaches was released into the wild on Oct. 18 after returning to health.

On the morning of Oct. 4, the Evanston Police Department received a call about a big bird on the beach. Officer Heidi Bernhardt, who was on her regular morning patrol near the area, was first on the scene.

“I thought ‘Oh, a big bird, I’ve got to see this,” Bernhardt told the Chicago Tribune. “And sure enough, it was a very big bird.”

After capturing the pelican, the police gave it to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, which then moved it to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.

Staffers at Willowbrook discovered a wound on the left wing of the pelican. The bird was also thin and had parasites. Further x-rays discovered no other injuries, but the injury on the left wing did require surgery.

People were unable to determine the pelican’s sex, but could decipher that it was hatched this year. The pelican spent two weeks recovering in Glen Ellyn before moving to the Four Rivers Environmental Education Center.

The Willowbrook staff spent the two weeks between the discovery of the pelican and its release by looking for spots where American White pelicans flocks were resting along their trips from Canada to Mexico.

“Because pelicans are really social birds, it is important they are released into a flock,” Rose Augustine, a wildlife specialist at Willowbrook, said in a video released by Forest Preserve District of Will County.

The wildlife researchers discovered that McKinley Woods is a common location for pelicans to stop during their long journeys. So, the researchers from Forest Preserve District of DuPage County teamed up with the Forest Preserve District of Will County to find a suitable place in the Woods for the pelican to be released.

Shortly after 2 p.m. on Oct. 18, the pelican was released into the wild inside the forest. It took the animal about 15 minutes to get acclimated to its return to the wild, but after it showed its wing was healthy and discovered a new flock to travel with, the staff left — their mission was complete.

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