WASHINGTON — Much like its death-defying dives for fish, the brown pelican has resurfaced after plummeting to the brink of extinction.
Interior Department officials on Wednesday announced they were taking the bird off the endangered species list, after a nearly four-decade struggle to keep the brown pelican population afloat.
The bird now prevalent across Florida, the Gulf and Pacific coasts and the Caribbean was declared an endangered species in 1970, after its population — much like those of the bald eagle and peregrine falcon — was decimated by the use of the pesticide DDT. The chemical, consumed when the pelican ate tainted fish, caused it to lay eggs with shells so thin they broke during incubation.
The pelican’s recovery is largely due to a 1972 ban on DDT, coupled with efforts by states and conservation groups to protect its nesting sites and monitor its population, Interior Department officials said.
"It’s been a long journey," said Tom Strickland, assistant secretary for fish, wildlife, parks for the Interior Department. "It’s tracked my whole adult life."