Best Animal Rescue (2006)

Pelican Harbor Seabird Station

In 1979 Harry and Darlene Kelton were living temporarily inside a houseboat docked at the county-owned Pelican Harbor Marina on the John F. Kennedy Causeway. One day the Keltons took in an injured pelican that was paddling by their floating home. One thing led to another, and the couple spent the final 23 years of their 48-year marriage tending to more than 6000 feathered patients. Unfortunately Darlene Kelton passed away in 2003, but her husband continues their legacy. The Keltons' original seabird station was a makeshift shed, and their first aviary was nothing more than old wood posts with chainlink fencing. In 1992 the seabird station moved into its current facility, which consists of a single-story building with two offices, a treatment center, and holding pens. The outdoor area is now a series of holding pens that allow wounded waterfowl to recuperate before they are released into the wild. Of course, some guests, such as the ones with only one wing, are permanent. The station's population is dominated by the native brown pelican, but other fine creatures such as herons and gannets also find their way to Pelican Harbor. On a recent visit, a northern gannet -- a majestic pearl-white bird with black wingtips and a large gray pointed beak -- argues with a feisty pelican for a space on a wood post. This year Harry Kelton and seabird station executive director Wendy Fox hope to begin fundraising for an upgrade to the existing building, possibly adding a second story. "That's going to take a few hundred thousand dollars," Fox says. "So we have some serious work to do." The station operates solely on public donations, struggling along each year on a budget of $87,000. Pelican Harbor also welcomes volunteers unafraid of encountering a little bird poo and handling bloody gutted bait fish. It is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to noon and from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.


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