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Injured pelican recovering after surgery

SANTA FE, N.M. — Injured pelican is recovering after surgery to collarbone

SANTA FE – You might immediately picture the seashore when you think of pelicans, but think again.

The avian fish-eaters also can be found in arid New Mexico, and one has taken up residence south of Eldorado to recover from a broken collarbone.

“Queen B is a tough girl,” said Lori Paras, director of the Santa Fe Raptor Center, which, she adds, also takes songbirds and waterbirds for rehabilitation.

The “B” in the name Paras gave the pelican stands for “bugs,” which were all over the pelican’s mouth and body, she said, explaining that they have a symbiotic relationship, with the bugs cleaning junk out of the bird’s mouth and throat.

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But the “B” also can stand for the rhymes-with-witch word, which suits the pelican’s imperious attitude, Paras added.

The pelican, which had a four-hour surgery on Saturday, came to Paras on June 12 from the Vaughn area, where a worker with the Bureau of Land Management found her with a drooping wing, caught her and deposited the bird with a local vet. In turn, a vet tech drove Queen B, estimated to be about 2 years old, up to Santa Fe, Paras said.

Dr. Kathleen Ramsay of Cottonwood Veterinary Clinic in Española operated on the bird Saturday, with an assist from Dr. Dan Guttmann, an orthopedic surgeon for humans out of Taos who is intrigued by the animal side of the practice, according to Paras.

em062013bFor now, Queen B has one wing wrapped close to her body, taking pressure off the broken bone, which appears to have been damaged by some type of impact, Paras said.

While brown pelicans soar and dive along the ocean, white pelicans, such as Queen B, are freshwater birds, according to Tom Jervis, president of the Sangre de Cristo Audubon Society. He called them “fairly common” in New Mexico, but said they usually don’t nest here. Instead, they might be passing through on their way to nesting areas anywhere from eastern Colorado and Kansas all the way into Canada, he said.

Some white pelicans may over-winter in New Mexico, he added.

“They show up in groups of five to 10 in the state every year,” Jervis said. “They’re always a treat to see.” He said they’ve been spotted at the Bosque del Apache south of Socorro or the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge.

Since pelicans like to eat live fish swimming in water, feeding Queen B has been something of a challenge, Paras said.

The bird has been getting smelt and trout – “anything that has a head” – from local stores and, basically, Paras has been prying the pelican’s beak open and dumping the fish in.

She also has been putting goldfish into a plastic pool filled with water, which do disappear after she leaves the slatted-board enclosure that the pelican shares with seven barn owls.

It will take the bird a while to recover. After the bone heals, it will have a bump at the broken site that will be absorbed by the body as the pelican exercises and strengthens her wing, Paras said.

“I would like to get her out (and back into the wild) before winter,” she added.