What’s Killing Brown Pelicans Along California’s Coast?

Since last month, wildlife officials have received numerous reports of brown pelicans becoming stranded along California’s coast. The birds have arrived dehydrated and malnourished without a known cause, as the fish they feed on are currently plentiful.

The phenomenon has occurred in San Diego County all the way to Santa Cruz. The rehabilitation group, International Bird Rescue, told CNN that pelicans have also shown up at a lake in Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium and at a Malibu fire station. 

“Diagnostic testing has not revealed any evidence of diseases such as bird flu that may be causing these strandings. Bird Rescue’s staff and volunteers are working tirelessly to provide the affected birds with the best care they desperately need to recover and return to the wild,” International Bird Rescue said on its website.

The organization has taken in around 260 pelicans since April. 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has been conducting post-mortem examinations on the birds. CDFW said “preliminary results indicate that pelicans are succumbing to starvation related problems.”

Brown pelicans are a federally protected species, and were once endangered. They have experienced similar stranding events in the past. In 2022, wildlife rescue centers across the state admitted nearly 800 starving birds. Weather-related food scarcity was suspected to be the cause.