Burnaby teen makes important birding discovery

Moscrop Secondary student Khalid Boudreau, 14, discovers new breeding ground for endangered pelican, while on vacation in the Interior of B.C.

He’s only 14 years old, but local bird-watching enthusiast Khalid Boudreau has already made an important ornithological discovery about an endangered bird’s breeding habits.

Khalid, a Grade 9 student at Moscrop Secondary, was on summer vacation with his family near Puntzi Lake in the Interior, when he discovered the second-known breeding spot of the American white pelican in B.C.

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“It was one of the biggest birds I’ve seen,” Khalid said. “You have to see them to realize how big they are. … They are a giant-like bird you don’t expect to find on the edge of the woods.”

Khalid was on a fishing boat with his grandfather, when they passed a small island on the lake. The teen, who has been interested in birds since he was a child, spotted eight adult pelicans and three young on the island, which was unusual, because the only known breeding spot for the bird is an island in Stum Lake, about 60 kilometres east of Puntzi. Khalid didn’t realize he had stumbled across an important discovery until he returned to Burnaby and told local birding expert George Clulow about his sighting.

“He has discovered the second-only breeding location in B.C.,” Clulow told the NOW. “It’s important because it’s a bird that only has this single location. Scientists have often thought they could breed on the other islands up there, but no one has discovered that before.”

Clulow also said he contacted a top ornithologist, who confirmed the discovery.

While the American white pelican breeds in others areas of North America, prior to Khalid’s discovery, the only known site in B.C. was Stum Lake, which is a protected area because of the pelican’s red-listed status as an endangered species. The newly discovered breeding ground in Puntzi Lake is not protected.

Clulow said the pelicans’ attempt to breed at their regular spot at Stum Lake was a complete “failure” this season. He also said Khalid was “a very good young birder.”

Khalid hasn’t fully realized the importance of his discovery.

“It hasn’t quite set in,” he said. “I feel like, ‘Yeah, I found them breeding. Cool. It doesn’t feel like that much of a big deal.”

Khalid, who describes his birding hobby as an obsession, wants to pursue politics or science when he grows up.

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