While coming back from an early morning walk (unfortunately, I don't remember which day in late February or early March), I came across a pelican huddled on the sidewalk, in the pouring rain, with 2 people standing guard, using big green trash cans as rain shields, and waiting for an animal rescue group. Seeing a pelican anywhere other than the air, a rock, or the wharf is very unusual, but I figured the people were tourists and were making a big deal out of nothing. I didn't really know what to think about the pelican. Maybe it was just waiting out the storm? What do pelicans and other birds do in the heavy rain, anyways? Just sit there? It wasn't until later that I heard about this problem and looked it up online:
State Fish and Game joins probe of pelican health problems
Posted: 02/15/2010 07:22:13 PM PST
The state Department of Fish and Game has joined the probe into the brown pelican health crisis along the California coastline, including the San Pedro and Long Beach areas.
Since mid-January - especially following winter storms - an estimated 500 pelicans have been retrieved in various conditions, from merely confused to dead, the department announced last week.
Fish and Game officials are joining veterinarians, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation groups, Sea World, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others, pooling resources to pinpoint the health hazards.
The San Pedro-based International Bird Rescue Research Center has taken in more than 200 sick and injured pelicans, and its San Francisco Bay Oiled Wildlife Care and Education Center has received more than 100 pelicans, according to a news release. Other wildlife rescue centers around the state are also providing emergency treatment.
According to the department, preliminary research shows that many of the insulating properties of the pelicans' feathers have been compromised - most likely by polluted runoff water. Most of the rescued birds are suffering from hypothermia.
Necropsies have found that pelicans are eating unusual prey, which indicates they are having trouble finding or accessing their normal diet of anchovies and sardines.
Results of various tissue and organ analyses are not yet available to help determine the cause of the die-off. El Nino conditions in the marine environment may be a factor.
IBRRC is feeding the captured birds with more than 1,000 pounds of fish per day between its two centers, but the Department of Fish and Game has no funds to contribute. It has sent biologists to assist with pelican care in Cordelia, Calif., and volunteers in Southern California to assess the number of dead pelicans on beaches.
Tax-deductible donations can be made online to http://www.ibrrc.org/.
Anyone encountering ill or injured pelicans should not touch or approach them. Report pelicans in distress at 800-39-WHALE.