"Do Not Feed The Pelicans" Campaign

The Virginia Beach SPCA is pleased to announce the launch of a new campaign to educate the public about the negative consequences of feeding pelicans. Attractive metal signs have been created and will be placed at establishments where pelican feedings frequently occur.

This past January the Virginia Beach SPCA and its Wildlife Program volunteers responded to the rescue of over almost 30 frostbitten and starving pelicans. The pelicans (primarily juveniles) failed to migrate to Florida where the rest of the pelicans as well as their primary food source had already headed. They were recovered from locations where they normally congregate in search of handouts of fish and scraps, where they slowly starved and succumbed to the cold temperatures.

Our goal is to discourage the feeding of pelicans so that these juveniles can develop proper foraging skills and be motivated to migrate this fall. The rescue and rehabilitation of these pelicans was an extremely time consuming and expensive venture. More importantly, the suffering that these birds endured as a result their reliance on humans is avoidable and we hope to prevent this situation from continuing to occur.

Some of the negative consequences of feeding pelicans:

  • Reliance on an artificial food source can result in delayed migration or even a failure to migrate.
  • Scraps with sharp edges can damage delicate pouches, lodge in the throat to prevent other food from passing, or even puncture the stomach.
  • High concentrations of pelicans in one area can increase their exposure to the spread of diseases and internal parasites. These conditions can also impair their ability to migrate.
  • Their tameness makes them easy targets to hostile attacks by people and domestic animals.
  • Their concentration (and the resulting droppings) at feeding sites increases the perception of the birds as a nuisance.
  • Their association of scraps as food makes them more prone to ingesting lures, hooks and fishing lines.
  • Young pelicans that rely on handouts fail to hone their natural foraging skills or recognize the migration habits of their natural prey.