An American white pelican was released at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 21, after receiving treatment at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife.

The white pelican was rescued and admitted to the CROW wildlife hospital Feb. 7. Veterinary staff noted the pelican to be exhibiting clinical signs that were consistent with brevetoxicosis (red tide poisoning) including head tremors, an inability to stand, extreme weakness and a decreased blink reflex. Although the red tide organisms have disappeared from our coasts for now, the toxins produced by the harmful algal organisms can still have lingering impacts on wildlife as they get passed through the food web.

The pelican was given a very guarded to grave prognosis based on the severity of its symptoms. The CROW team placed an IV catheter in the birds leg to administer fluid therapy which remained in place for several days. After nearly two weeks of care, the pelican has recovered.

It was taken to the refuge to be released in a location with other American white pelicans. These large birds are seasonal residents, a true “snowbird”, that migrate to Southwest Florida during winter months. In summer months, they return north to breed on isolated islands in freshwater lakes or, in the northern Great Plains, on ephemeral islands in shallow wetlands.