Local News

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

Posted March 8, 2011 6:22 p.m. EST
Updated March 8, 2011 11:00 p.m. EST

— 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.

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.