Chase Lake Pelicans

Last year nearly 28,000 Great White Pelicans who make the islands of Chase Lake at the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota their nesting grounds abandoned the rookery without warning. They left behind thousands of eggs and chicks that did not survive.

The pelicans began returning this past April. Chase Lake Wildlife officials estimate that 18,850 pelicans have returned to the 4,385-acre refuge this year. In 2003 there were 29,494 birds on the islands, but the birds left before they could be counted last year. Officials are hoping that the pelicans will remain until September raising their young.

Why they left in the first place remains a mystery, perhaps one that we may never solve. Was it a natural correction to overcrowding on the islands? Officials from the refuge checked air, water and soil quality on the islands as well as investigated possible diseases, predators and other potential factors. Nothing stands out as a reason for the bird's sudden departure.

Why do you think the birds left so suddenly?

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