27 healthy Brown pelicans released back into wild from North Bay after rehabilitation

ByCornell Barnard KGO logo
Saturday, June 15, 2024
27 healthy Brown pelicans released in North Bay after rehabilitation
In the North Bay, more healthy Brown pelicans were released, after hundreds of the birds were found starving on beaches along the California Coast.

SAUSALITO, Calif. (KGO) -- In the North Bay, more healthy Brown pelicans were released into the wild, after hundreds of the sea bird were found starving on beaches along the California Coast this spring.

Friday saw the largest numbers of healthy birds returning to the bay. Many experts believe climate change is contributing to the starvation event.

Volunteers from the International Bird Rescue were getting ready for a full circle moment, releasing healthy Brown pelicans back into the wild in Sausalito.

"It's amazing. This is my first bird release. It's pretty special," said volunteer Margaret Hamersley.

This was the most pelicans the nonprofit rescue has released yet: 27. A month ago, these birds wound up at the center's Fairfield hospital, starving and barely alive.

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"We fattened them up. They've been voracious eaters going through a lot of fish," said Russ Curtis from International Bird Rescue.

The moment of truth arrived, and the pelicans took flight, landing yards away near Fort Baker.

I'm looking for them to realize they are free again. They've been with us for a while. Sometimes it takes a minute," said International Bird Rescue CEO JD Bergeron.

Minutes later, the pelicans started doing what healthy pelicans do.

"This is exactly what I want to see. They're preening. Some of them are getting water on their feathers," Bergeron said.

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Back at the center, about 120 pelicans are still in rehab, waiting for their chance to fly again. Directors say fewer birds are being admitted here.

Since mid-April, almost 400 starving and injured pelicans have come into care at the center's two locations in Northern and Southern California. Why it's happening is a mystery but many theories point to climate change.

"We've got issues of warming water and fish not being available where they normally were. Many theories, but it's about pelicans not being able to access the food," Bergeron said.

Bergeron says there's encouraging signs the starvation event may be waning.

"There are folks who study pelicans and their numbers. They seem to be feeding healthily again," he said.

Bergeron said several pelicans tagged and released last month were recently spotted in Oregon.

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