Hope soars for brown pelicans

For the past year, California brown pelicans have not been doing so hot.

As we reported last month, many have been found along Golden Gate Bridge, parking lots and beaches, sick and emaciated.

But now, with a little help from some human friends, some of these poor birds are being rehabilitated and given another chance.

On Wednesday, a group of 16 pelicans was released at Fort Baker near Sausalito after a month of rehab. The birds, many of them juveniles, were released from five cages along the beach and received cheers from onlookers as they took flight.

Because of their young age, many of the pelicans had not yet learned how to fend for themselves. Michelle Bellizzi, manager at Fairfield’s International Bird Rescue Research Center, helped organized the release. She told the Marin IJ:

“They seem to be having a hard time getting food. They need to learn how to do their foraging, and they have not caught on yet.”

It’s been a strange dichotomy for the birds. The numbers of starving pelicans means there are many more than there used to be.

Problem is, they’re all competing for a limited food supply, according to wildlife experts.

With the numbers of unhealthy pelicans still on the uptick, International Bird Rescue staff members has taken in about 450 birds to its rehabilitation centers in Bay Area and Southern California in a little less than two months.

Not more than 50 years ago, brown pelicans faced extinction in California. But in recent years, the species has returned to former homes such as the Farallon Islands.

The pelicans were taken off the endangered list in 2009.