Bay Area animal groups stepping up to help after surge in starving brown pelicans

ByCornell Barnard KGO logo
Tuesday, May 14, 2024
Surge in starving brown pelicans in Bay Area
Hundreds of starving and stranded brown pelicans continue to be found up and down the California Coast, including Bay Area beaches.

FAIRFIELD, Calif. (KGO) -- Hundreds of starving and stranded brown pelicans continue to be found up and down the California Coast, including Bay Area beaches. Animal rescue groups say the situation is quickly becoming a crisis now that some of the birds are being found in unusual places - like at a San Francisco Giants game.

"What we're seeing is a lot of starving and very skinny birds being brought into care," said Angie Trumbo.

Trumbo is taking us behind the scenes at the International Bird Rescue in Fairfield, where dozens of California brown pelicans are in bad shape.

"It's clearly turning into a crisis over the last couple of weeks," Trumbo said.

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A new surge of starving Pelicans is causing concern. Two weeks ago, the Bird Rescue began treating about a dozen pelicans but now, that number has jumped to 130 birds in distress.

"The ones that are just hungry - they need to gain their weight back, but many of the birds have additional injuries because they're so hungry they might be getting into trouble with fishing gear as they take desperate measures to find food," said Trumbo.

The pelicans are being found stranded up and down the California Coast at an alarming rate. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife say many birds have not survived.

"We still have no idea why this is happening," said International Bird Rescue veterinarian, Rebecca Duerr.

Doctor Duerr says the pelican strandings are a mystery.

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"Pelicans never forget how to fish but sometimes they run into problems finding it, it could be a weather or food availability problem," said Duerr.

A pelican showed up at Saturday's Giants game during the fifth inning, making the game broadcast. We showed the video clip to bird experts, who were concerned.

"That's definitely not normal behavior, he's a young bird probably starving looking for a place to find food," Trumbo added.

Caring for so many birds is challenging and expensive. It's costing the International Bird Rescue $1,000 a day to keep the pelicans fed.

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"We are relying on donations from the public to care for these birds," said Trumbo.

During our visit, 18 more pelicans arrived for care - there weren't enough volunteers to assist, so they asked ABC7 News reporter Cornell Barnard to help get the birds into the clinic for medical evaluation.

The good news is, most of the pelicans being rehabilitated here are eager to eat, they're gaining weight and getting stronger.

"Pelicans are resilient, they can come back from severe injuries so we are confident we can get these birds back into the wild and healthy again," Trumbo said.

Experts say if you see a Pelican in distress, call your local animal control or call the International Bird Rescue helpline at 866-SOS-BIRD. If you'd like to help, the rescue center welcomes donations and volunteers.

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