Sick pelicans puzzle scientists

Scientists are trying to determine what’s making the seabirds sick, DFG says

Photo By mike baird

The California Department of Fish and Game is teaming up with other wildlife entities in an effort to figure out why hundreds of confused and dead Brown Pelicans have been found recently on California coastlines.

Since mid-January, hundreds of the birds have come ashore in a variety of distressed conditions. Many of the seabirds’ feathers are parted, causing their skin to be exposed to cold ocean water and weather, and some to suffer from hypothermia, according to a DFG press release.

Scientists have yet to determine the cause of the birds’ illness, but they speculate that severe winter storms, urban run-off and El Niño in the marine environment may be factors.

A research center in Santa Cruz has performed necropsies on 12 pelicans, and found a variety of conditions including innkeeper worm parts, seal and sea lion bite wounds, bacterial infections and evidence that the pelicans have been eating unusual prey, which indicates that the birds may be having trouble finding their normal diet of anchovies and sardines.