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Hurricane-battered pelican travels 1,500 miles to roost in NC

Posted March 8, 2011

— A seabird blown far off course by the winds of Hurricane Earl is coming home to the U.S., where he'll roost in North Carolina.

The brown pelican, which rescuers think is from Florida, came across the hurricane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean in September, and was whirled north to Nova Scotia, according to the Hope for Wildlife Society in Seaforth, Nova Scotia, where the bird has been housed for the past six months. Dehydrated and emaciated, the bird flapped his way to Halifax, where he landed on the roof of a gentlemen's club.

The club was Ralph's Place and the pelican became known as Ralph.

Ralph arrived in North Carolina Tuesday, where he'll recuperate at the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport. He's grown accustomed to being around humans and will need to have his muscles re-conditioned before he's released into the wild, said a Hope for Wildlife Society spokeswoman.

The shelter has six other brown pelicans, and wildlife officials are hoping they will help Ralph re-learn how to be a bird.

ralph the pelican Hurricane-blown pelican roosts in NC

Government regulations prohibited wildlife officials from putting Ralph on a plane to North Carolina, so they made the 1,500-mile trip by car. Ralph's rescue team, driven by Nova Scotian adventure driver Garry Sowerby, left the Halifax area Sunday in a Chevrolet cargo van.

"I took a week off. This is my holiday. Some people go golfing, some people go on a cruise, I'm driving a pelican to North Carolina," Sowerby said.

They planned to stop in Rocky Mount Tuesday night and arrive in Newport Wednesday morning.


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  • Go Figure Mar 9, 2011

    It is nice for a change to read something positive. Would like to see this more often.

  • whocares Mar 9, 2011

    I hope Mr. Sowerby gets to see some of our state before going back to Nova Scotia. Thank goodness for people like him.

  • MrBank Mar 9, 2011

    How do they know this pelican wasn't trying to get to Nova Scotia? Be funny if he took off and flew right back. Hope the transporter has more holiday time saved up. Free Ralph!

  • andela Mar 9, 2011

    Many little fishes to you, Ralph!

  • IAMAmerican Mar 9, 2011


    I agree!!!!!! Thanks WRAL

  • NoObamaCare Mar 9, 2011

    Just goes to prove what extremes men will go to, to get to a "Gentleman's Club."

  • VanC Mar 9, 2011

    I am guessing its a health dept thing. Don't domesticated animals that fly have to show they have had their shots, etc?

  • jkca Mar 9, 2011

    Ralph, you're a tough ole bird. Best wishes to you mate!

  • Skywatch_NC Mar 8, 2011

    Seems if domesticated pets are allowed to fly ...why the heck not wildlife creatures?

  • daryoung Mar 8, 2011

    It's so good to read good news for a change. Yeah, bureaucracy is dysfunctional but thank goodness for a few nice people wiling to sacrifice their own resources to help out.