First Birds Rescued from Gulf Oil Spill Released in Florida

Pelly the pelican freed after rescue from Gulf oil spill photo

Image: KW Celeste, for CNN iReports

KW Celeste, an alert reader of CNN's iReports, has shared a heartwarming series of photos of "Pelly," the brown pelican, and "Lucky," the northern gannet, as they once again revel in glorious freedom after being rescued, cleaned, and treated. Since this situation produces so many unhappy oil disaster headlines, we take pleasure in sharing the details of a rare success. But you still have to wonder what a bird thinks, suddenly finding itself scooped from the oily muck only to fly free again miles from home?The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that Lucky was discovered by workers reacting to the Deepwater Horizon disaster on April 27, near the source of the leak. Lucky was thin and dehydrated when he was found, 80% covered by oil. A bit of pepto-bismol was used to calm a tummy not used to ingesting oil, and Lucky made a full recovery, earning his name.

Pelly was rescued on May 3 on Stone Island, along the Louisiana coast. The brown pelican was thin and moderately oiled, but was able to eat fish hand-fed to him from his first day in treatment.

Both birds were washed to remove the oil from their feathers and allowed to recover for several days in an outdoor pool at the bird rehabilitation facility. Ten birds have been found dead, and three more birds remain in recovery, not yet strong enough to be released.

Pelly the pelican spreads his oil-free wings photo

Image: KW Celeste, for CNN iReports

Pelly and Lucky were flown to Florida, were they could be freed near the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Atlantic coast. According to FSW:

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge was the nation's first wildlife refuge, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. It was selected as the release site because it is located within the Indian River Lagoon, the most biologically diverse estuary in the United States. It has a large population of Gannets and Pelicans for the two rescued birds to join, and is out of the current oil spill trajectory.

KWCeleste reports: "Upon his release, Pelly the pelican waddled a few steps into the water then quickly took flight and seemed to send a "thank you" to the caring folks watching him by circling ovehead a number of times before flying off in the direction of Pelican Island. Lucky the gannet swam a bit when released, flew a short distance, and then settled into the water and flapped his wings, seemingly enjoying his return to a healthy wild."

It has been quite a journey for two birds. A path of many steps still lays ahead for the rest of us.

More on the Gulf Oil Spill:
BP Gulf Oil Spill Cheat Sheet: A Timeline of Unfortunate Events
Must See Aerial Footage of BP Oil Spill Shows 'The Gulf Bleeding' (Video)
The BP Oil Spill as Seen by Astronauts on the ISS
The Anatomy of an Oil Spill Cleanup: What Works and What Doesn't
18,000 Gallons of Oil Spill Into Louisiana Wildlife Refuge
Flying Over the BP Gulf Oil Spill (Photos + Video)
Court Stops BP Forcing Oil Spill Clean-Up Volunteers to Sign Away Their Rights

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