Fun facts about wildlife found at Gulf State Park
Sam- our resident Brown Pelican
Sam came to us 8 years ago on his own free will and has become quite an icon at the Pier. He was banded in Louisiana as a baby and became habituated at the Gulf State Park Fishing and Education Pier because of people feeding him. While it is fun to hang out with Sam and the other pelicans on the pier, please do not feed them.
Brown pelicans, due to their social nature, become dependent on discarded fish and fish scraps. The birds will often congregate in places where the scraps are readily available and rely on the scraps as a major source of food. In places where fish scraps are available, such as the pier, the pelicans will arrive day after day to eat, becoming habituated, according to FWC biologists.
Pensacola Independent News published a story stating: "Hanging out at the piers can develop into a further problem when pelicans get caught with fishing hooks while trying to steal fish directly from the fishing line. Its not unusual to see a pelican with a hook embedded in its pouch and fishing line trailing behind it. Embedded hooks can cause the soft skin of the birds pouch to tear. Such injuries can sometimes become infected, which can lead to sickness and weakness. In extreme cases, the bird may die from illness or from starvation because it weakens to the point where it cant get enough food.
Brown Pelicans are huge, stocky seabirds. They have thin necks and very long bills with a stretchy throat pouch used for capturing fish. Their wings are very long and broad and are often noticeably bowed when the birds are gliding. Brown Pelicans feed by plunging into the water, stunning small fish with the impact of their large bodies and scooping them up in their expandable throat pouches. When not foraging, pelicans stand around fishing docks, jetties, and beaches or cruise the shoreline."
So, please come and take some photos with Sam at the pier just no free lunches.
Hawkeye came to live at the Nature Center in December 2017. He became a falconry bird when he was just a hatchling in 2015. Falconry goes back many years in some cultures and it’s a sport that involves hunting with a bird of prey (hawks, falcons, owls, etc.). He learned to trust his handler and started going on his own hunts to find food. Sadly, Hawkeye got West Nile virus while out hunting, which effected his depth perception. Since being able to see correctly is key in surviving, a decision was made to keep him in captivity. Hawkeye is now partaking in our Radical Raptors program series.
Some people might ask how we know Hawkeye is a boy since both sexes look identical. Just like owls, you can tell by the size of the individual bird. Based on Hawkeyes weight and size we assume he is a boy.
Archimedes was a fledging in August of 2009 when she was struck by a car on Foley Beach Express in Orange Beach. Her left eye was severely damaged and she was taken to Environmental Study Center in Mobile, Alabama. There she was assessed and determined to be releasable provided her damage eye remained intact. However during her recovery the eye shriveled up and exposed her eye socket. This put her at risk of infection in the eye socket with a direct access to her brain. Therefore, the determination was made that she was not a candidate for release. The Gulf State Park Nature Center was able to obtain a Federal Letter of Authorization to use Archimedes as an education animal. For over eight years, she has been a wildlife ambassador for thousands of school children and visitors to the Nature Center.