1996 32¢ Brown Pelican
Issue Date: October 2, 1996
City: San Diego, CA
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
Relying on the well being of our coastlines, the brown pelican has long been in a precarious position. In fact, in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt established the nation’s first wildlife refuge – Pelican Island – to protect brown pelican nesting sites. When the Louisiana population of this species disappeared entirely between 1957 and 1961 and its California population suffered a catastrophic decline, it became obvious that more aggressive steps needed to be taken.
Large-scale use of pesticides, especially DDT, posed the greatest threat. Found in highly concentrated doses in fish – the pelican’s primary food source – DDT was absorbed by the birds, causing them to lay thin-shelled eggs that seldom survived incubation. But a 1972 ban on DDT gave the brown pelican a second chance.
Despite other threats such as oil spills, overfishing, and destruction of breeding grounds, the future looks promising. Since the ban, the population has increased dramatically and colonies have successfully been re-established in Louisiana and Texas, although there is still a need to protect nesting areas. Should efforts to protect the California brown pelican prove equally successful, the bird will most likely be “downlisted” from Endangered to Threatened.