HUNTINGTON BEACH (CBSLA) — Wildlife experts are trying to figure out what is happening to young, starving pelicans that have been appearing across Orange County, after more than a dozen of the sickly birds were found in the past three days.
The Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy usually sees five sick pelicans during an entire month.
“For some reason, we’re getting a lot of very young pelicans coming in […] emaciated, they have not had any food or water, they’re disoriented,” John Villa with the agency told CBS2 News.
Villa said the birds are being found all over the OC and Los Angeles County.
“This seems to be occurring from south Orange County, all the way up to Malibu,” said Villa.
The cause? “It is a mystery,” said Villa, who added they have ruled out a food shortage.
“People are finding these sick birds in places where pelicans don’t normally hang out,” Villa said.
One of the pelicans was found in a Pasadena parking lot.
“That’s not their normal habitat, so that would be a clue that there might be issues with that animal,” said Villa. He said the animals are usually “pretty skittish,” but some pelicans have allowed people to pick them up.
For now, the sick birds are being closely monitored for their weight and temperature. Caretakers were using heat lamps to help one bird return to the normal temperature range of 102 to 106 degrees.
The birds will remain in flight cages until they’re acting normally and will be subsequently released.
“Once they get a little more stable, we move them to some of these outside cages where we feed them, give them water,” said Villa. He added none of them have yet been released and at least one pelican has died.