Fishing line took pelican's beak, now anglers keep it alive

UNLUCKY: Pelican missing the top of its beak near the Ballina River.
UNLUCKY: Pelican missing the top of its beak near the Ballina River. Contributed

A PELICAN with its top beak missing is being fed by local anglers, who are probably keeping the bird alive.

Australian Seabird Rescue spokesperson Keith Williams they have been keeping an eye on the injured pelican for several weeks.

"While he is able to feed and function we won't pull him in, but if his condition deteriorates and he's not coping we'll pull him in," he said.

"There is a risk that if we capture a bird for rescue, a vet may make an assessment that the bird has to be euthanased.

"We'd like to give the bird the best chance of survival if it can cope so we're keeping a watching brief."

An initial attempt was made to capture the bird when it was first noticed, but then it disappeared for several weeks and has now been seen hanging around the fish cleaning tables on the Richmond River.

"That's probably how it's surviving. We've had pelicans in the river before survive with one wing. generally people see them and toss them enough fish scraps to keep them going," he said.

Mr Williams said 95% of all injuries to seabirds are caused by fishing lines and hooks and it is "unlikely" anything else could have caused this injury.

"Fishing line constricts tightly around the limb and cuts of the blood flow until the limb comes off, but it is more likely to be forced if it was tangled and the bird has tried to untangle itself."

He said they were considering the possibility of having a prosthetic fibreglass beak made, but there would be problems associated with attaching it.

"We'll keep watching and hope it survives. That's our preference," he said.

Protect our seabirds

THE Regatta Avenue Boat Harbour Association recently installed two disposal units for fishing line with the aim of protecting local birdlife from discarded line and hooks.

The units are attached to poles on the Richmond River side of the Ballina CBD harbour and are made of PVC pipe.

The units cost about $50 each to make and have been well used.

The association hopes the units will inspire other organisations to do the same.

Topics:  australian seabird rescue fishing pelicans

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