Eight and Zero or Folded Blanket: Rehabilitation of a Special Pelican

A Story of Survival and Discovery by Dani Nicolson, licensed wildlife rehabilitator

In 2010, our wildlife rehabilitation center on the Central Coast of California, began to receive an unusual number of brown pelicans. Not only was it an unusual number, but it was the wrong time of year and the wrong ages of birds. Normally we see many fledgling brown pelicans in July. They have left the islands of their birth and often run into trouble finding food in July. This was different. It was February and these were adult pelicans. They were starving, emaciated and cold. These beautiful birds had just been removed from the endangered species list, but now they desperately needed help.

For some of the birds, it was too late. Their body stores had been exhausted, and they died within hours. But for one bird, it wasn’t. He was known as Eight and Zero, but I called him “Folded Blanket”. You’ll learn why.

brown pelicanFolded Blanket arrived with his head lying flat on his back with no energy to stand or even move. I warmed him in an 80 degree room with heat directly underneath him. When his temperature reached nearly normal, I began his exam. His weight was low, but his blood levels were even lower. His PCV was 8 (normal for pelicans = 40-50), and his TP or TS was 0 (normal = 3-6). I knew from sad previous experience that this bird would surely die, but still I tried to save him. We had been using Emeraid Carnivore™ and had seen good results. I decided that this would be his best chance for survival.

He took gavaged fluids well, but as I tried to increase the percentage of Emeraid™ per tubing, he was unable to digest it. I decided to keep tubing him at the level that he could digest, which was mostly water. But how could he survive on mostly water?

The next day I arrived at the Center and immediately went to the room where he was housed, expecting to find him dead. To my amazement, when I peeked into his crate, he turned his eyes towards me. That day, I increased the percentage of Emeraid™ only slightly and by day three, the same. Until day four, there was no change. However, in the afternoon of the fourth day his head was up, and by the end of the day, he stood.

Now he could digest the Emeraid™ full strength and by day six, he began to eat fish. Every volunteer who knew him was as amazed as I. He not only lived but he began to thrive.

I said to myself, “What is this Emeraid™?” It felt like a miracle. We use Emeraid™ for all of our emaciated animals with similar success.

Still, there was no moment more beautiful to me than the day I released Folded Blanket at Windy Cove in Morro Bay. He flew strong and straight until he reached the open ocean. Then he turned south and was gone.

So why did I call him Folded Blanket? Considering how light and weak he was in those first few days, in my arms he felt like a folded blanket. I will always remember that bird, and I will always be thankful to the Lafeber Company for Emeraid™ Eight and Zero or Folded Blanket.