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For Immediate Release:             Contact: Georgia Parham (812)334-4261 
x 203
January 29, 1998                                  E-Mail:
EA98-14                                      Joseph Budzyn (847)298-3250 
x 110
E-Mail: Joseph_Budzyn@mail.fws.gov


A white pelican, rarely seen in the Midwest and apparently swept into 
northern Illinois by bad weather, will get a free ride back home to 
Florida thanks to help from United Airlines, the Illinois Department of 
Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The white pelican, a species normally found in western and southern 
states, was discovered in mid-December along the Kankakee River in 
Kankakee County south of Chicago.  Friendly fishermen provided food for 
the wayward bird, but when temperatures plunged and the river froze, the 
Illinois DNR was called in.  The pelican was taken to a wildlife 
rehabilitator in Aroma Park, who has been caring for the bird until it is 
ready for its trip south.

The pelican will fly home the easy way, in a container aboard a United 
Airlines jet bound for Tampa, Florida.  Upon arrival, the bird will be 
met by state wildlife agents who will release it, or if necessary, place 
it in the care of a wildlife rehabilitator until the pelican is ready for 
return to the wild.

White pelicans, while not an endangered species, are a rarity in this 
part of the country.  These birds nest near lakes in western states and 
spend their winters along the Pacific Coast in central and southern 
California, along the Gulf of Mexico in Texas and Louisiana, and 
throughout Florida.

Among the largest birds on earth, adult white pelicans weigh 17 pounds or 
more and sport wingspans over 9 feet.  White pelicans have a long, 
distinctive reddish bill and the large pouch for which the species is 
famous.  Their plumage is white with black wing tips.  They eat fish, 
crayfish, and salamanders, sometimes working in groups to drive fish to 
shallow water where they are easier to catch.

White pelicans are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a 
Federal law aimed at conserving populations of migrating birds, including 
waterfowl, birds of prey, and songbirds.  Enforced by the U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service, the act was passed in 1916 to stop the decline of bird 
populations which were being decimated by market hunters seeking meat, as 
well as feathers for the fashion industry.  Amended most recently in 
1989, the act also regulates sport hunting of migratory game birds and 
provides full protection for many other species of migratory birds.


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