A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week!
But I'll be darned if I know how the hellican?”
― Dixon Lanier Merritt
Pelicans are not only the subject of humorous poems, but they are also endearing symbols of our coasts. The Caribbean Brown Pelican is the national bird of St. Maarten. There have been alarming reports of ill and dying birds in recent years, along with declining population counts. Concerned about the health of this important seabird population, EPIC is researching the status of the island’s Pelicans and promoting their protection through outreach activities.
Thanks to recent funding, the Sint Maarten pelican team is out every week monitoring the nests at Fort Amsterdam, which is internationally recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and a site of historical significance. The last assessment of nesting success at this site was completed by EPIC ten years ago. This new study will allow us to compare data, identify trends, and perhaps make management recommendations.
Typically, the female pelican lays two to four eggs, while both parents incubate the nest. Chicks can fly and fend for themselves after three months, but they need to be fed for eight to ten months, which is a substantial amount of time compared with many other bird species. For this reason, most pelicans only rear one chick per nesting cycle. This low rate of reproduction is compounded by numerous threats to the population; these include disease, pollution, the development of nesting sites, and disturbance during the breeding season. When adults are scared off their nests, it leaves eggs and chicks vulnerable to predators as well as the deadly hot sun. Therefore, educating the public about how to reduce negative impacts is a key component of the project. In addition, sampling for toxins is taking place to assess pollution risks.
A Caribbean Brown Pelican Conservation Manual will be drafted and provided to key decision-makers to promote protection and proper management. Posters and educational signs will be created and shared to encourage the public to protect pelicans and their habitat. Businesses and tour operators with nearshore activities are being contacted to encourage actions that reduce disturbance and flushing of birds from nests. The project team is offering free presentations about pelicans to schools, and they have already reached over 350 children through primary school presentations. Interested community groups and businesses can contact EPIC at email@example.com to schedule a presentation on Sint Maarten or Sint Martin before the project wraps up at the end of April 2023. In addition, a coastal cleanup with 30 volunteers was held at the nesting site, and a pelican trivia night was hosted in partnership with Pelikaan Brewery.
EPIC encourages residents and visitors in Sint Maarten to report sightings of injured or dead pelicans as part of the data collection effort. Project Coordinator Margot Mesnard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EPIC gratefully acknowledges that this project is funded by the United Nations SPAW/RAC, Prins Bernhard Culture Fund, SXM DOET, the Dutch Representation Office in St Maarten, and EPIC donors. Thank You!