One of the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s California brown pelicans, Wren, was discovered unresponsive during morning checks at the bird holding facility on Thursday June 30. A necropsy performed by Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory confirmed that Wren suffered an aneurysm of the carotid artery. “It’s hard to express how much we are going to miss Wren,” said CJ McCarty, Curator of Birds at the Aquarium. “She was special from day one and was a favorite of staff and visitors alike.”
Wren arrived at the Aquarium in October 2013, by way of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of the North Coast in Astoria, Oregon. With one wing partially amputated as a result of fishing line entanglement, Wren was incapable of flight and thus unfit for release into the wild. She and another female brown pelican, JoJo, needed a permanent home and the Aquarium was happy to provide it.
During the two and a half years she spent at the Aquarium, Wren reached many milestones with the help of the Aquarium’s aviculturists. She progressed from eating only in seclusion to taking fish directly from her keepers’ hands, and eventually to participating in twice-daily feeding presentations before a live audience.
Aviculturists use positive reinforcement to encourage desirable behaviors in the Aquarium’s resident birds. In many cases, this means rewarding good behavior with edible treats. Wren was quick to embrace this technique, and soon learned to follow her trainer onto the presentation stage, touch her bill to a target pole, move to certain areas as directed, and even “take a bow” on cue.
Due to various natural and human-caused risks, injured pelicans are not uncommon at rehabilitation facilities along the Pacific coast. “The loss of Wren comes in the midst of plans to adopt additional non-releasable brown pelicans in the near future,” said Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry at the Aquarium. “We are deeply saddened by Wren’s passing, but we remain committed to the legacy she started here, as an ambassador for her species.”
During the Pelican Presentations, an educator interprets training techniques, pelican natural history and conservation issues while the aviculturists work with the pelican onstage. The remaining brown pelican at the Aquarium, JoJo, is healthy and will continue to charm the public during the presentations this summer.
Information and photos provided by Oregon Coast Aquarium