Last month, Squamish played host to an unexpected guest.
With snowy mountains as a backdrop, a wayward Brown Pelican was spotted hanging out at the Squamish Yacht Club and later Squamish Terminals, setting the birding community all a-flutter.
Commonly found in California, Oregon, Washington and Mexico, the Brown Pelican rarely ventures inland along the B.C. coastline, said Chris Dale, a member of the Squamish Environment Society.
Since August, there has only been one other Brown Pelican sighting in B.C. — at Roberts Creek, Dale noted, adding it was likely the same bird. The Brown Pelican is one of three pelican species found in the Western Hemisphere and one of two pelican species that dives into the sea for its food.
The smallest of the eight pelican species, the Brown Pelican nests in the south, moving north afterward.
“They have been moving up the coast recently. They have been moving further north,” Dale said, noting scientists have not yet figured out the reason behind the abnormal migration.
In December 2008 and 2009, U.S. rehabilitation facilities in California and Oregon were overwhelmed by a large number of Brown Pelican strandings. The birds normally migrate south in October, yet were still in the north as Christmas approached.
In 2009, 50 per cent of the stranded pelicans died with frostbite injures, stated a joint final report on the event conducted by various U.S. government departments and environmental organizations.
The report concluded that a food shortage during the winter within the birds’ foraging range was the primary underlying cause of the mass-stranding events in both years.
The Brown Pelican that visited Squamish was a juvenile, Dale said.
“It flew over the Farmers’ Market and everybody thought it was a pterodactyl,” he joked.
This year has been a good year for rarities in Squamish, Dale said. Some of Squamish’s feathered visitors were new to town and others were rare sightings in B.C. and Canada. For the first time in documented history, a Northern Mockingbird was spotted in the community — a rare sighting for B.C. A Black-throated Sparrow, which is unusual, not only in Squamish but across Canada, was also spotted this year, Dale said.
To learn more about the birds in Squamish, visit www.squamishenvironment.ca.