Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rough weather, prey shortage likely caused pelican crisis

Scientists say natural cyclical events appear to have caused the recent influx of stranded Brown Pelicans on the California and Oregon coasts. An investigation by scientists from the California Department of Fish & Game, the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center, Sea World San Diego and International Bird Rescue Research Center did not indicate that manmade actions created the crisis.

From the California Department of Fish & Game:

"Working collaboratively with other organizations, we have been able to quickly examine multiple causes for the stranding event, said DFG Wildlife Veterinarian Melissa Miller in Santa Cruz. "Unfortunately, we are looking primarily at a cyclical event driven largely by weather and oceanographic conditions. Food shortage coupled with bad weather have taken a toll on the pelicans."

Mass-stranding of brown pelicans was reported along the California and Oregon coast about this time in 2009, again with widespread food shortages identified as a factor. Some stranded birds have little or no body fat stores and atypical foods in their digestive tracts. Shortages of preferred prey items could be caused in part by the current El Nino event.

Some pelicans have also had waterproofing problems with their feathers, possibly related to storm runoff from recent heavy coastal rains. Preliminary findings from postmortem examinations suggest that infectious disease and/or marine toxins are not major contributors to this event.
Pelicans at wildlife rehabilitation centers have responded well to care efforts. Anyone who finds a stranded or dead pelican should not approach or handle it but report its location to 800-39-WHALE in Los Angeles County or 866-WILD-911 elsewhere.

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April 16, 2010 12:33 AM  

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