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Climate change impacting White Pelican population at largest nesting colony located in North Dakota

MEDINA, N.D. (KFGO-AM) A study finds that climate change is hurting the largest White Pelican nesting colony in North America, located near Medina, North Dakota.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists found warmer spring weather on the bird's southern wintering grounds is sending the pelicans north to the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge about 16-days earlier in spring than they did 45 years ago. While spring temperatures have also increased at Chase Lake since 1965, the timing of severe weather has not. The scientists say because pelican eggs are now hatching earlier than in the past, the chicks are at their most vulnerable stage of growth, between two and three weeks old, during a time when extreme cold and weather weather is more likely.

During four of the five years of the study, there were significant losses to chicks. In June 2008, 80% of the newly hatched pelicans died of exposure.

Marsha Sovada, USGS scientist and lead author of the study, says calls the increased mortality rate of the chicks "a conservation concern."