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Rescued pelicans get released into the wild

More than two dozen brown pelicans rescued during last month's storms are going home on Wednesday.

February 10, 2010 12:46:04 AM PST
Some of the casualties from southern California's recent storms have been wildlife. In San Pedro, a bird rescue group released more than a dozen pelicans on Wednesday afternoon. The birds were found sick or injured, and nursed back to health. Eyewitness News was there as the birds took flight. The California Brown Pelican has definitely seen better days. Over the past few weeks, the International Bird Rescue Research Center has been swamped with calls of sick pelicans. Some 500 were reportedly brought into rescue shelters. About a third of them have ended up dying.

"We're only seeing some kind of die-off happening on a fairly large scale," said Paul Kelway, International Bird Rescue Research Center.

The pelican die-off is happening all up and down the west coast all the way through Oregon. What's causing it? Experts say they aren't sure but they have theories.

"There's issues with them finding the food that they would normally find. There are issues with their water proofing. There's an issue on their feathers that's preventing them from being waterproof," said Kelway.

Throw in the recent storms and biologists say the pelican population is getting slim.

But on Wednesday there was a sign of hope. Workers and volunteers at the Bird Rescue Center released 14 pelicans that have been nursed back to help. They were set free at Royal Palms State Beach in San Pedro after 10 days of blood tests, treatment and food. But this success story can be short lived.

Rescue center workers say they have no solution for the pelican die-off and have little time to enjoy this moment.

"Now we have to get back to the 180 or so that we still have at the center," said Kelway.