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Climate change, vanishing islands in Louisiana threaten brown pelicans

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Young brown pelicans in their nest on Raccoon Island, a Gulf of Mexico barrier island that is a nesting ground for birds in Chauvin, La. Such barrier islands with nesting colonies of brown pelicans are vanishing, disappearing under water as a result of climate change. CHAUVIN, La. — Sliding off the side of her small boat, seabird biologist Bonnie Slaton wades through waist-high water as brown pelicans soar overhead until she reaches the shores of Raccoon Island.

During seabird breeding season, this place is a raucous symphony of noise and motion — and one of the few remaining refuges for pelicans, one of the most iconic birds found in the United States.

The crescent-shaped island is the final sliver of land separating Louisiana from the Gulf of Mexico — a natural speed bump offering protection against hurricanes and other storms rolling in from the sea. An hour’s boat ride from the mainland, the barrier island’s remoteness allows birds to nest on mangroves and sandy beaches safely away from most predators.

A dozen years ago, there were around 15 low-lying islands with nesting colonies of Louisiana’s state bird. Today, only about six islands in southeastern Louisiana harbor brown pelican nests — the rest […]

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