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      Nature Report: Pelicans Premiere

      Just over a month ago, several brown pelican nests were discovered on a remote island in the Lower Laguna Madre.

      Brown pelican nests are a rarity in the Lower Laguna Madre as the vast majority of pelicans nest on the middle Texas coast.

      The first eggs began to hatch approximately two weeks ago, and that pair of downy youngsters are sitting tall.

      A couple of other newly hatched pelicans are barely visible peeking out beneath their mother's breast feathers. They are so young they have yet to develop their first feathers.

      The nesting island is protected by the National Audubon Society, and Audubon warden Leroy Overstreet has been checking on the pelicans regularly.

      Brown pelicans almost disappeared from the Texas coast due to the widespread use of the harmful pesticide DDT, but their numbers have increased dramatically since the banning of the chemical, which caused eggshell thinning resulting in almost no successful hatches.

      Brown pelicans were removed form the endangered species list in 2009, and there are now more than 12,000 breeding pairs along the Gulf coast.

      Thrusting its head into the gaping bill of its parent, this little pelican garners a rich mixture of regurgitated fish. The parent's bill is so big and the baby so small, that the youngster almost seems to disappear, but eventually reemerges with a nutritious meal.

      The young will be able to fly at approximately nine weeks, so the parents will have to do a lot of fishing to keep up with their offspring's growing appetites.

      Reddish egrets come in both reddish and white coloration, and the young of both color phases are busily chasing one another around the wading pool.

      Occasionally, the persistence of the youngsters pays off and they manage to grab hold of their parent's bill and receive a brief regurgitated meal.

      These young reddish seem ready to snatch a meal from anyone, be it a juvenile snowy egret or tricolored heron|or maybe they just enjoy pestering other birds like this spoonbill.

      But some are learning to successfully hunt on their own, only it takes a few tries sometimes to snare that slippery minnow and arrange it just right for a gulp.

      The circus will continue for several weeks as more young leave the nest and join the flock in the nursery.