An unexpected visitor used the grass outside of Sproul Hall as a landing field one day in early April. Safely on the ground, the flyer, a full-grown pelican of indeterminate age, ignored the humans streaming by, who were heading off to home and dinner. The main rush was over, and most didn’t notice the grey ball of feathers, hunkered down and unmoving, as they hurried along.
It’s the moment any wildlife responder is waiting for. Mara Guccione, a UC Extension student, was on her way to class, and happened upon the scene. She put her wildlife responder hat on and rescued the bird to International Bird Rescue. Photo by Dick Cortén.
A few people did spot it, and kept watch. This was a sizable bird, and — despite the much larger statue of its ilk a mere hundred yards or so away, in front of Anthony Hall — a living, breathing pelican is virtually never seen on campus. (Seagulls commonly swoop around the Sproul Plaza when blustery weather tempts them inland to relatively calm oases with fresh garbage-snacks. Turkeys occasionally venture down from the oak and chaparral of the hills. But pelicans generally stay quite close to large bodies of water.)
This one moved rarely, except to steady itself against gusts of wind, and, once or twice, to stretch its wings. It seemed to be nodding off. So the watchers, who soon included a few campus police officers, began speculating about its health, and wondering what they might do to help. (One of the officers mumbled, “This was definitely not covered at the academy!”)