Cold Weather Impacting Pelicans Flying Over Valley Highway

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BROWNSVILLE – Researchers are looking into why pelicans are ending up on Highway 48 during cold fronts.

Dozens of them were saved Tuesday with at least two dead.

Renee Lockett, a volunteer who helps save the pelicans, says times like this can be deadly for the birds.

"In December in 2016, over 70 pelicans were run over in one night," said Lockett.

For the past year and a half, Lockett has helped save pelicans that end up on Highway 48.

"Thanks to law enforcement stopping traffic we're able to go onto the road gently and carefully pick them up and safely cross them across the highway," said Lockett.

After they are picked up, they are checked for injuries and marked where they are then released on the north side of the highway.

"The pelicans want to fly to the Bahia Grande because that's where they roost at night," said Lockett.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS wanted to know why these pelicans are landing along Highway 48 specifically, so we spoke with Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist Andres Garcia.

"These birds are generally flapping their wings when they are usually gliders and as they come over the high way some kind of vortex is pulling them down," said Garcia.

Right now, Garcia says they believe it's the concrete median which is causing the winds to change and pull them down. Because this is a busy road, Garcia says it can become dangerous not only to the bird but to drivers.

"Pelicans might cause your windshield to cave in if you strike them at a high rate of speed but also when they are landing other vehicles slow down or stop and other vehicles are passing them and can cause an accident," said Garcia.

Depending on the winds this week both Lockett and Garcia say they will be back out on Highway 48 if needed.

Garcia says wind speeds over 25 miles per hour is what is needed to bring the pelicans out of the sky.

He says they are working with Texas Department of Transportation to see what can be done about the median.


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