Pelican crisis along California coastline
Many of the pelicans are “wet,” meaning that their feathers’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.
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.
Photo courtesy of IBRRC