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A Brown Pelican baby boom is underway on Queen Bess Island two miles north of Grand Isle, Louisiana in Barataria Bay. Thousands of Brown Pelicans are nesting on their newly restored 37-acre island. 

Todd Baker, Wildlife Biologist for Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries  says, “The rebirth of Queen Bess Island, an essential bird habitat northeast of Grand Isle, is a major success. The newly-restored island, home to the Brown Pelican, is officially reopened for nesting.”

What a difference 10 years make. Ten years ago, Queen Bess Island and its inhabitants were covered in oil as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. The explosion killed 11 men on the rig and more than three million barrels of oil were spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.

One of those projects was to restore Queen Bess Island. Baker says, “This island was a mess; an absolute mess. A lot of birds were oiled. A lot of the young were oiled. And to be out here today and look around and see the birds returning to the Island in a much better shape than it has been last 10 years, is pretty spectacular.”

All photos by Rick Erbach and Todd Baker

As a result of various legal settlement and fines imposed, more than $7.29 billion dollars will be awarded to Louisiana for coastal projects through 2031.

The $18.7 million dollar restoration project took three years of planning. Baker says, “I don’t know how better to say it, but just the partnership between wildlife and fisheries and CPRA, and the Louisiana TIG. The Louisiana TIG is kind of the governing body of those BP restoration dollars in Louisiana. They also saw the importance and need to come out to this Island and restore it. The window to restore the island was only 6 months to complete  and it had to be finished during the non-nesting season. “

Brown Pelicans aren’t the only birds on the island. There are a number of birds that nest on Queen Bess Island many of them are species of conservation concern in Louisiana.

Also nesting this season are Tri-color Herons, Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Oyster catchers, Least Terns, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and even Diamondback Terrapins turtles.

Baker says, “ You know, the Brown Pelican in Louisiana has been through a lot. It was on the endangered species list, it recovered. In 2010, the BP oil spill hit, and today, after this project, you can see the birds bounce back to this island in strong numbers. Much like our citizens of Louisiana; every catastrophe, every disaster we face, we seem to bounce back and these birds are a pretty good symbol of that. So, yes sir, I’d say it’s very symbolic of Louisiana.”