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Volunteers, officials team up to assist pelicans

January 17, 2018 GMT

A team of volunteers, law enforcement officers and wildlife officials worked in tandem Tuesday afternoon to give hundreds of brown pelicans a welcome assist on their way home to roost in the Bahia Grande near Port Isabel.

The pelicans’ flight home becomes a problem any time there is a strong enough north wind. The birds are then forced to fly straight into the wind to get back to their nesting grounds on a group of islands where the old railroad between Brownsville and Port Isabel once ran, said Andres Garcia, a natural resource specialist with the Coastal Fisheries Division of Texas Parks & Wildlife.

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Some don’t make it over a four-mile stretch of State Highway 48 as they attempt to fly from the Brownsville Ship Channel into the Bahia Grande. The highway runs east-west and perpendicular to the wind. Its concrete median apparently creates a vortex that deprives the birds of enough air to fly and causes them to drop onto the roadway, where cars are speeding by at 75 mph.

Past cold fronts have caused a now-predictable set of conditions: Any time the wind reaches 25-30 mph, birds start falling out of the sky as they struggle to clear the barrier.

Tuesday afternoon, volunteers wearing orange vests stood on the side of the road as Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and TPW game wardens ran interference in their vehicles to get drivers to slow down.

glong@brownsvilleherald.com

A more complete version of this story is available on www.myBrownsvilleHerald.com