LAGUNA BEACH : Healed Pelicans Set Free at Shore


A cluster of pelicans was set free at a Laguna Beach cove Thursday in what has become an annual ritual of rescuing injured birds, treating their wounds and releasing them at the seashore.

“This release will actually mark the beginning of what we call ‘Pelican Season,’ ” said Linda Evans, executive director of Pacific Wildlife Project, the bird rehabilitation center that cared for the pelicans. “Now their numbers will gradually increase in the area.”

Center volunteers increase their patrols of the local harbors in May, at the close of the birds’ breeding season, when they generally return to the local coast, Evans said. Injured birds are then taken to the Laguna Niguel wildlife center for treatment and rehabilitation.


“The majority of the injuries we get are actually related to marine debris--that is, lines, hooks, lures and leaders,” Evans said. “Most of them appear to be unintentional injuries, accidents. Sadly, a small portion of them appear to be intentional. . . . We’ll occasionally get one that was simply brutalized, hit with some instrument.”

Some of the five birds released Thursday “wintered over” at the center because the season’s fierce storms, Evans said. The center intends to free a total of about 30 pelicans over the next couple weeks.

The birds are released in groups at sheltered coves where they can be protected from strong tides and winds, said Laguna Beach Animal Control Officer Joy Lingenfelter. On Thursday, Lingenfelter set the birds free in a cove at Treasure Island Mobilehome Park.

When first released, the birds are tentative and tend to huddle together, Lingenfelter said. Often, a line of pelicans flying overhead will spot the freshly sprung birds and make a U-turn, flying back to recruit them.

Until Pacific Wildlife Project opened 10 years ago, she said, she had to deliver the injured birds to veterinarians that dealt mainly with dogs and cats.

“They would get put in dog and cat rooms,” she said. “They would be in there shaking and trembling. . . . We had a high failure rate on these birds before (Pacific Wildlife) showed up.”


The center has brochures available describing how to rescue pelicans. For more information, call (714) 831-1178.