October 1, 2013 at 2:53 am #541MikeKeymaster
Calif. Pelican Deaths Puzzle Wildlife Officials
July 19, 2004
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California’s endangered brown pelicans are
mysteriously starving to death during a bumper year for anchovies,
their preferred prey, wildlife officials said.
Hundreds of the ungainly sea birds appear to have flown off course in
search of food during their annual migration from the Baja California
peninsula to British Columbia, with young pelicans turning up in
Arizona deserts, biologists said.
Wildlife sanctuaries in California and Arizona have taken in scores
of young birds found emaciated and injured over the past month, but
veterinarians have been unable to link their plight to disease or
“They are starving but we do think there are plenty of anchovies,”
said Judy St. Leger, a veterinarian at San Diego’s SeaWorld aquatic
animal park. “It is an unusual and very extraordinary event.”
The large, grayish-brown sea bird with the pouched bill was
threatened with extinction in the 1970s because of the introduction
of the pesticide DDT. It is still listed as endangered, according to
the California Department of Fish and Game.
Naturalist Sandy Cate of the Arizona Game and Fish Department said
the phenomenon appears linked to an explosion in pelican numbers
combined with changes in Pacific Ocean temperatures.
“Anchovy can be going down deeper or out farther away than they might
be normally,” Cate said. “By nature, animals do whatever it takes to
find food, water and shelter. There is no food to sustain the numbers
that were born this year.”
Cate said the young birds may be mistaking interstate highways for
waterways, which would explain why numbers of them have been found
along roadways with broken wings or legs.
SeaWorld has released about 10 of the 60 young pelicans it took in
earlier in the month, but the facility is still trying to pin down
the source of their distress, SeaWorld’s St. Leger said.
“Right now we are trying to help the birds that are coming to us…
and trying to give them a second chance,” she said.
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