Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

June 30, 2018

The Release Files: More Brown Pelicans Return to the Wild

On a bright, sunny, morning with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop, seven Brown Pelicans were returned to Northern California waters. The pelicans were nursed back to health after arriving sick and starving at International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay-Delta wildlife center. The release included some older birds that received care for fishing line injuries. All were returned to the wild with the help of our volunteers at Fort Baker in Sausalito, CA.

The seabirds were among 88 brown pelicans that have flooded our two California wildlife centers since late April. They were found weak, hungry, cold, and unable to fly at parks and beaches as far south as Monterey, California. One pelican was even rescued in front of a coffee shop in downtown San Francisco.

The public was instrumental in helping these birds in need. They alerted local animal control officials that scooped up the lethargic, wide-winged seabirds. Many went the extra mile to assist these iconic coastal birds.

Four of the seven Brown Pelicans get ready to fly off into San Francisco Bay. Photo courtesy of Paul Alber

“We want to thank Frank from Crows Nest, South Carolina, who found a sick and weak pelican with a severe wing injury while in Santa Cruz and took action that ultimately saved its life,” said JD Bergeron, executive director. “At Bird Rescue, we are inspired by people like Frank who take action to help wildlife in crisis.”

“We send our deepest thanks to all the people who first saw these birds in trouble, to those who helped capture and bring them to our center, to the staff and volunteers who fed and medicated them, to the donors who helped pay for fish and veterinary care. I am so inspired by the village of caring people who step up to protect nature.”

The cause of the grounding of these sick and starving birds is still unknown, but we suspect that changing ocean conditions, including warming water temperatures and the lack of available fish, are main factors.

Each of these pelicans received two leg bands: One federal and one special Bird Rescue Blue-band. They include X59, X60, X61, X62, X63, X64, and X65.

Blue-banded California Brown Pelican Program

The California Brown Pelican represents a species of special interest to Bird Rescue. These birds continue to face many challenges including oil spills, fishing tackle entanglements, prey shortages, and climate change.

To help us track this iconic seabird, each one of the Brown Pelicans we release receives a large, blue, plastic leg-band bearing easily readable white numbers. Bird Rescue started banding its rehabilitated Brown Pelicans back in 2009 when these seabirds were de-listed from the endangered species list. With the help of citizen scientists, the blue-banded pelicans spotted in the wild can be reported on online: https://www.bird-rescue.org/contact/found-a-bird/reporting-a-banded-bird.aspx

How You Can Help

Bird Rescue continues to ask for the public’s help in caring for these brown pelicans in need. Donations can be made online at www.birdrescue.org or mailed to the center directly. We encourage anyone who spots a sick or injured pelican to call their local animal control or contact us directly at 707-207-0380.

International Bird Rescue – San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center
4369 Cordelia Road
Fairfield, California 94534

Media stories

San Francisco Chronicle: Injured, starving pelicans are rehabilitated, freed on San Francisco Bay shoreline

Fairfield Daily Republic: Brown pelicans – nursed back to health – return to wild

As the media records the event, rescued Brown Pelicans were returned to nature at Fort Baker near the Golden Gate Bride. Photo courtesy of Paul Alber

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