Jul 16

SeaWorld San Diego has an Influx of Sickened and Injured Brown Pelicans

So far this year SeaWorld San Diego has cared for 100 hundred brown pelicans and more than 50 in the past two weeks. Wildlife rehabilitation centers from all along the coast of California have seen a higher than usual number of sick, malnourished and injured pelicans for this time of year. A higher than usual number of starving, young brown pelicans are being reported by concerned beachgoers and inundating wildlife rehabilitation centers along the California coast. While avian experts say these fledgling birds are thought to be part of a natural breeding event due to the rebounding of the species once endangered, the sight of so many struggling young pelicans has heightened public concern.

While the mortality of fledgling pelicans is a normal occurrence, what is not normal is for people to see the birds in distress in parking lots, on public piers and beaches. Many are exhibiting unusual behavior — begging humans for food or foraging in unlikely locations far from the ocean. With a marked increase in breeding in recent years, these human interactions are happening on a much larger scale, sometimes resulting in injuries to the birds, such as fishing line entanglements. It is also possible that a lack of fish in the pelican’s usual feeding grounds is contributing to this phenomenon. Pelicans are flooding International Bird Rescue centers in the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas causing the facilities to seek donations to help cover the escalating cost to treat these migratory birds. To that end, SeaWorld is giving the organization a $5,000 grant through its non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.

Brown pelicans are normally found along coastal habitats throughout the West Coast, Gulf Coast and Latin and South America. Their standard weight is about 7 pounds with an average wing span of 5 feet. In 2010, the species was removed from the U.S. endangered species list. SeaWorld received in 175 brown pelicans for rehabilitation last year (2011).