Listening to the Land: Tracking the Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Skimming the waves and plummeting beak-first for fish, the California brown pelican is one of the most iconic and easily recognizable seabirds on the Oregon Coast. On Wednesday, March 15, at 6 p.m. join Astoria wildlife biologist Deborah Jaques at the Seaside Public Library to explore the natural history of brown pelicans, from their breeding grounds off Mexico to their summer feeding grounds off our own coast. It is the third of this year’s wildlife-themed Listening to the Land presentations from North Coast Land Conservancy and the Necanicum Watershed Council. Admission is free.

Use of DDT and other pesticides decimated breeding populations of brown pelicans off southern California by the early 1970s. Pelicans recovered from the pesticide era, but their numbers continue to rise and fall, impacted by environmental conditions here and in their breeding grounds and by natural and unnatural mortality events. Astoria biologist Deborah Jaques has been closely observing brown pelicans since the 1980s. She’ll share information about the birds’ natural history and migration patterns, informed in part by results from a recent electronic tracking study. She will discuss her work monitoring communal root sites and responding to events such as the oil spill off Santa Barbara in May 2015, and she will highlight conservation concerns such as the importance of preserving key forage fish populations. Deborah will share photos of her experiences with these birds, including images from a December trip to the heart of the breeding range in the Gulf of California, Mexico.

Deborah Jaques is an independent wildlife biologist based out of Astoria. Her work over the past 30 years has taken her from the coastal margins of Antarctica to the Olympic Peninsula and has most often involved seabirds and other colonial water birds. Deborah did her graduate research at the University of California, Davis, on California brown pelican habitat use and distribution in the non-breeding range, including evaluation of northern range expansion and communal roosting behavior. Brown pelicans are a focus of her monitoring and conservation efforts on the West Coast.

Listening to the Land is a monthly winter speaker series offered January through May in partnership with the Seaside Public Library. For more information, visit