An apparently injured American White Pelican sits on a rock in the Fox River, near the College Avenue bridge Thursday. According to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials and members of the Aves Wildlife Alliance, who have been observing the the bird regularly since reports of its presence began coming in, any rescue attempt at this point presents too much of a danger to both the bird and the human rescuer. / Sharon Cekada/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com
APPLETON — Alert residents and passersby in downtown Appleton have expressed concern about an apparently injured American White Pelican that has frequented the area since last summer.
According to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials and members of the Aves Wildlife Alliance, who have been observing the the bird regularly since reports of its presence began coming in, any rescue attempt at this point presents too much of a danger to both the bird and the human rescuer.
Rebekah Weiss, with Aves, has been monitoring the bird for about four weeks.
“They don’t call it a wild goose chase for nothing,” Weiss said. “Although in this case, it’s a pelican.”
Weiss explained that is hard to get close to a bird that is apparently doing pretty well, despite a left wing injury that has rendered it flightless.
“Its difficult to tell, without the bird in hand,” Weiss said, “but it appears it is an older injury, from this past summer, that has healed incorrectly.”
Despite its injury, the bird appears to be doing quite well, moving about and feeding effectively.
“We received a report today that the bird has been feeding quite well along with a flock of gulls on the river.” she said.
Wisconsin DNR officials, have also been keeping a close eye on the injured bird.
“Getting next to a bird with a 10-foot wingspan that is still very mobile and healthy is a challenge,” said Ryan Propson, with the local DNR field station.
“The good news is that it’s in an area that stays open all year long, where it can feed on fish in the area. As long as the waterway doesn’t freeze, it’s very likely that the bird will survive all winter long,” he said.
Pelicans have routinely wintered along the Fox River and Lake Winnebago in small numbers over the past few decades, as well as at the mouth of the river in Green Bay.
Last winter, a pair of American white pelicans spent the entire winter along the south shore of Lake Winnebago at Fond du lac, and small numbers of birds have been observed wintering in downtown Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Kaukauna, as well as Green Bay.
As long as the birds can stay healthy, stay hydrated and obtain enough food on the open water, they can easily make it through a Wisconsin winter.
If the waterway begins to freeze solid later this fall or winter, rescuers will likely take the opportunity to capture the bird, evaluate its condition, and attempt to rehabilitate.
More photos of birds in Wisconsin:
Rob Zimmer: 920-419-3734, firstname.lastname@example.org