Monday, February 15, 2010

Pelican crisis along California coastline

California Department of Fish & Game is investigating the cause behind the hundreds of Brown Pelicans that have come ashore in need of help or dead, according to a press release on Friday. DFG and wildlife experts -- such as wildlife rescue/rehabilitation centers, Sea World and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service -- have assisted an influx of the confused and ill seabirds since mid-January.

Many of the pelicans are “wet,” meaning that their feathers’
insulating properties have been compromised and their feathers have parted, exposing their skin to the cold ocean water and winter weather. Thus, in addition to whatever has made them ill or disoriented, they are also suffering from hypothermia. None of the pelicans received from the Monterey Bay area thus far had significant feather fouling, but some pelicans in southern California did, and the severe winter storms and resultant urban run-off may be a factor.

DFG’s Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz has performed necropsies on 12 pelicans. Most of these were adults in breeding plumage that ranged from thin to good nutritional condition. Three of the dead pelicans had innkeeper worm parts in their intestines, and a few had what appeared to be seal or sea lion bite wounds on the breast, neck or back, with secondary bacterial infections. The necropsies have found that pelicans are eating unusual prey items, which is indicative that they are having trouble finding or accessing their normal prey of anchovies and sardines.
International Bird Rescue Research Center is caring for more than 300 big birds but unfortunately is running out of money. Concerned birders can make tax-deductible donations online: www.ibrrc.org.

Photo courtesy of IBRRC

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