The Lowdown on Chase Lake Pelicans

Remember all the hype about the white pelicans that abandon their eggs and young in 2004 and 2005 on Chase Lake in North Dakota? Well, I've been getting the lowdown from the experts here.

In 2004, pelicans decided to nest on a peninsula on Chase Lake. The birds started to abandon nests in tiers. It was speculated that it may have been predators and now the consensus appears to be that it was a coyote predating the eggs and chicks.

In 2005 the pelicans returned and began nesting in about the same numbers and hopes were high that the year before would not repeat. Coyotes had been removed and a predator barrier had been installed. But when researchers went out to check the nest colony, they found piles of dead young and no adults. This time, the birds had died from exposure. A cold weather system had moved in while the chicks were still young and they just couldn't survive.

The pelicans are back this year and so far so good. However, they are not out of the woods yet. West Nile Virus has taken its toll on the young as well. Many of the carcasses have tested positive for WNV but it's not yet known if the young died from the weather and just tested positive for WNV or if the virus is what did them in.