ROYAL OAK, Mich. - If anything can sympathize with the struggles of 2020, it's the Detroit Zoo's newest aviary addition.
An American white pelican believed to have survived Michigan's winter made it through with fractures in both of its wings and an injury to its right foot.
Officials with the zoological society have given the bird refuge where it will safely remain as a member of the American Grasslands habitat at the Detroit Zoo.
But its path toward safety was an arduous one. Concerned citizens first took note of the injured bird at the Port of Monroe earlier this year.
It's not entirely clear how the bird got there, but the associate curator of birds at the zoo has a theory.
“It is uncommon that American white pelicans migrate through Michigan, but it happens from time to time,” said Bonnie Van Dam. “Unfortunately, when the rest of the pelicans left the area to continue on their migration, this girl simply couldn’t.”
Upon her discovery, a local rehabilitator took a few looks at her before deeming the bird non-releasable due to her injuries. She also refused to eat. The zoo said she was malnourished, weak, and unable to walk when she arrived in Royal Oak.
Typically pelicans of her species are 10 to 15 pounds. However, this specimen weighed only eight. After some time recuperating and eating, she packed on an extra two pounds.
A medical examination of the bird determined her injured wings were old fractures while the foot injury was more recent. The cause of the injuries is unknown.
“Quite honestly, she’s very tough,” said Van Dam. “It’s truly amazing that she was able to survive and keep herself fed with all of her injuries.”
After two splints were applied for a couple of months, the bird's foot healed. Unfortunately, the damage to her wings is permanent and she will be unable to fly again.
Onlookers will be able to see the bird - who has yet to be given a name fitting of her tough persona - among the four pink-backed pelicans in the habitat. She can be distinguished by her bright yellow beak, whiter feathers with black tips, and larger stature.