Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: South Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Ferguson, L.M.*, T.M. Norton, A. Dipl, C. Cray, M. Olivia, P.G.R. Jodice. 2014. Health assessments of brown pelican nestlings from colonies in South Carolina and Georgia. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 45:835-845.


We evaluated the health of Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) nestlings from three colonies along the Atlantic coast of the southeastern USA in 2005, 2007, and 2008. Our primary objective was to establish baseline data for hematological, biochemical, and serological values of a free-living population of pelicans during early chick development. We also evaluated the relationship among health variables and colony site, ectoparasite infestation, sex, and body condition index. Reference intervals are presented for health variables, including novel analytes for the species, and we present comparisons of our results with previously published values for wild pelicans. No significant relationships were found between health variables and nestling sex or body condition, however differences between colony sites and presence of ectoparasites were detected. The collection of baseline data and inclusion of health assessments as a regular component of management programs for seabirds can provide insight into the condition of species of conservation concern and enhance understanding of the ecological and demographic mechanisms regulating populations.