Brown pelicans are everywhere, sweeping over the beaches in formation, swarming the rookery shoals in the estuaries, haunting the fishing piers.
The wide-winged bird with the pterodactyl beak is a familiar sight on the Lowcountry coast.
Wildlife watchers along the South Carolina coast weren't surprised by its removal from the federal Endangered Species list last week. The birds have hung on here, even while they became few and far between along other coasts, and have been down-listed for some time.
But now there's concern over the species' future.
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The pelicans' numbers virtually tripled in South Carolina in 20 years after it was placed on the list in 1970.
But since 1990, the nest numbers counted have fallen off.
In the coastal rookeries overall, the numbers fell 50 percent or more and have yo-yoed between 3,000 and 4,000 since, according to the S.C. Natural Resources Department.
"The population is stable. It's not like it's crashing," said Felicia Sanders, DNR wildlife biologist. "But, with all the beach-nesting birds, they're threatened by development, boat and foot traffic at the rookeries and contaminants."
In the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service north of Charleston, the numbers have crashed - dropping steadily from nearly 4,000 in 1989 to fewer than 750 this year.
Studies haven't been able to pinpoint a cause. The refuge's vast chain of remote islands is the largest shorebird breeding ground in the state.
"We don't know what's going on," said Sarah Dawsey, Fish and Wildlife biologist. "It could be loss of habitat as the ocean overruns nesting ground on the refuge's remote islands. It could be just that the numbers are leveling out as the birds populate other nesting areas. But, there's concern for the refuge as a whole," she said.
The pelicans' removal from the federal list "was a long time coming, but I guess it's another example, like the bald eagle, of the Endangered Species Act working," said Nathan Dias, of the Cape Romain Bird Observatory.
"'They're out of immediate danger, but they're not out of the woods by any means."