Jan 19, 2009 | 3
Bird experts suspect that California Brown Pelicans that have been mysteriously dying and turning up ill may have become sick and disoriented in a severe winter storm last month off the coast of Oregon that forced them to fly south in search of food and warmth.
Since last month, some 460 of the birds have shown up thin and confused – or dead — in Oregon and California, far from the coast where they typically feed. Domoic acid, a poison in algae that causes brain damage if ingested, was an early suspect.
But Dan Anderson, an avian ecologist at the University of California, says the birds were probably disoriented because they’d flown 1,000 miles (1,609 kilometers) after getting cold and wet when temperatures dipped below freezing and 60 mile-per-hour (97 kilometer-per-hour) winds slammed into East Sand Island in the Columbia River, where the Pelicans were roosting. “They just flew a thousand miles and had their tails frozen off,” Anderson tells the New York Times. “They probably weren’t feeling so well.”
Jan 7, 2009 | 4
Dead and dying California brown pelicans are littering the state’s coastline and nearby inland areas, and wildlife experts aren’t sure why.
An unusual number of ill or dead adult birds have been reported from southern Oregon to Baja California. While it’s common for up to 80 percent of young California brown pelicans to die each year from starvation, adults aren’t typically affected, according to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, Calif.
Rescuers have brought more than 75 ailing birds to the center over the past 10 days, and it's received hundreds of calls about pelicans that are either dead or are sick and confused, according to executive director Jay Holcomb. The birds are exhausted, and their pouches and feet are discolored, the Los Angeles Times notes. They're also disoriented, Holcomb says, with many landing inland on highways, roads and runways instead of sticking to the coastline as they typically do.
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