California Department of Fish and Game News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 22, 2010
Contacts: Esther Burkett, Wildlife Biologist, (916) 445-3764
Dana Michaels, Information Officer, (916) 322-2420
Scientists Zero In on Causes of Pelican Stranding Along
Scientific investigation indicates shortages of preferred prey items, like anchovies
and sardines, and rough winter weather as primary causes for the pelican
mass-stranding. Scientists from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG),
the U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center, Sea World San Diego and
International Bird Rescue Research Centerpooled their resources to determine why
so many brown pelicans are stranding along the
Californiaand coast. Oregon
"Working collaboratively with other organizations, we have been able to quickly examine
multiple causes for the stranding event," said DFG Wildlife Veterinarian Melissa Miller,
. "Unfortunately, we are looking primarily at a cyclical event driven largely Santa Cruz
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
Californiaand coast Oregon
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.
Live-stranded birds are responding quickly to feeding at rehabilitation facilities, although
these facilities have been overwhelmed at the sheer magnitude of birds stranding along
the coast. DFG is donating frozen trout to these organizations to assist with the rehabilitation
When pelicans are starving and sick they may fly into or be found in unusual places, be
unaware of their surroundings, tolerate human approach or demonstrate other unusual
behaviors. Anyone finding stranded or dead pelicans should not approach or handle the birds,
but note their location and report it to either 800-39-WHALE in
or Los Angeles County
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