Hurt brown pelicans appearing on Peninsula 

click to enlarge More than 30 brown pelicans have been found on local beaches in need of urgent care.
  • More than 30 brown pelicans have been found on local beaches in need of urgent care.

Dozens of sick and dying pelicans have turned up on beaches across San Mateo County in recent weeks, putting a strain on resources at a local wildlife care center that takes them in.

Peninsula Humane Society spokesman Scott Delucchi said Friday that more than 30 brown pelicans needing urgent care — some of them starving, hypothermic and unable to fly — have been found on local beaches and taken to the society’s wildlife care center in Burlingame.

In a typical year, the Humane Society cares for about 20 to 25 brown pelicans in distress, but never that many in a short period of time, Delucchi said.

“Something is different this year,” he said. “We never see 25 to 30 at one time.”

The pelicans — most of them fledglings about a year old — are slightly smaller than full-grown adults, which can have a wingspan of 6 to 8 feet and weigh up to 12 pounds.

Accommodating 30 of the big ocean birds has been challenging for the Humane Society, which has called in extra volunteers to help provide daily care and has modified one of its rehab spaces into a “pelican room.”

The goal is to rehabilitate as many pelicans as possible and return them to the wild. Some are transferred to the International Bird Rescue and Research Center in Fairfield, and, unfortunately, some of the sickest birds can’t be saved.

While wildlife experts try to determine what has been causing the wave of sick pelicans to show up on California beaches — some believe the birds’ food supply has been depleted — Delucchi said he is encouraged that the trend appears to be slowing down.

“We haven’t had any come in for a few days,” he said.

Brown pelicans were once an endangered species, but they have recovered, Delucchi said.

To help

The Humane Society’s care of injured wildlife is made possible by donations, which can be made online at

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