An American white pelican found underweight and riddled with lice in Cook County a few weeks ago has a new, temporary, home in a Will County forest preserve. Shortly after 2:00 p.m. on Oct. 18, a crew from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County’s Willowbrook Wildlife Center joined Forest Preserve District of Will County staff to release the now healthy bird into McKinley Woods – Kerry Sheridan Grove in Channahon.

A large plastic crate was carried to the water’s edge. The door was opened and the pelican stepped gingerly onto the muddy ground. The bird walked slowly to the water and floated quietly for several minutes, shaking its wings as it became acclimated to the water. About 15 minutes later, the big bird finally took flight circling around the area and above a group of pelicans that were sleeping in shallow water not far off shore.

A rescuer found the pelican on Oct. 4 and brought it to the Willowbrook Wildlife Center, which helps thousands of injured creatures each year. In addition to being underweight, the bird also had a laceration on its wing that was surgically repaired. When it came time to release the massive bird, Willowbrook staff began looking for places where other American white pelicans were resting during their migration south to the Gulf of Mexico after having spent the summer in the Dakotas or Canada.