Santa Barbara Island Closed to Protect Pelicans

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Date: February 14, 2006
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

Santa Barbara Island will be temporarily closed to public access from February 10, 2006 through May 31, 2006 to protect a breeding population of California Brown Pelican, a species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

This breeding season, the pelicans on Santa Barbara Island are nesting on and near the only trail that provides public access from the landing dock to the entire island.

The endangered seabirds are settled into these newly established territories, and have been seen tending their nests and eggs. Some chicks have already hatched.  California Brown Pelicans are “asynchronous nesters” meaning that individuals do not all start nesting at the same time. As a result the pelican nesting season usually extends from January to October.

Island pelicans are highly sensitive to any disturbance and are known to abandon their nests for the entire season if disturbed. Any public access to the closed areas would have the potential for adverse impacts on the breeding pelican population.

The Channel Islands support two of the three primary pelican breeding colonies on the West coast of North America. These colonies almost disappeared in the 1970s. California Brown Pelicans were first declared endangered in 1970 after a drastic decline in reproductive success was observed. The cause of this decline has been attributed to high levels of DDT in the food chain which resulted in eggshells so thin that they were crushed in the nests during incubation.

Today, the pelican population on Santa Barbara Island averages between 400-700 nests each year. The isolation of the Channel Islands is increasingly important to their survival as human disturbance threatens the reproductive success of these birds.

Last updated: February 27, 2015

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