TimesOC: 2 rehabilitated pelicans breathe fresh air as wildlife center sets them free

"Sign up for our TimesOC newsletter" and the L.A. Times logo over the Huntington Beach Pier at sunset.
TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, June 23. I’m Carol Cormaci, bringing you today’s TimesOC newsletter with the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

Among the items that caught our eyes in recent days were several media reports generated after the California Department of Fish and Wildlife put out a plea for the public’s help in finding out who’s responsible for harming pelicans up and down the state, including 22 of them just since October that were found with broken wings and taken to the Wetlands Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, as were 10 others that had less severe wing injuries.

As our colleague Leila Miller reports, officials with the state agency had been given a tip that suggested one person in particular might be involved with the fractured-wing injuries, but there is little more to go on at this point. A veterinarian at the Huntington Beach center said, according to Miller’s report, “that although she does not know for certain that the injuries were caused deliberately, the fractured bone, called the humerus, takes ‘significant force to break.’”

Miller reports it’s not the first time Orange County beach communities have learned of the big web-footed birds being targeted: “In the early 1980s, almost two dozen pelicans were found with their beaks partly or completely hacked off in Dana Point Harbor. In 1992, authorities said they received about 30 reports of attacks on the birds, including a crucifixion in Newport Beach, where a boatman spotted a pelican hanging from a light pole.”

On the flip side of that story is the one filed Tuesday by our colleague Matt Szabo, who went down to Crystal Cove to witness a late-morning release to the wild of two brown pelicans that had also been treated at the Wetlands Wildlife Care Center.

Interested onlookers watched as the two gingerly left the kennels in which they’d been transported to the beach. Szabo reports there were smiles all around as the birds, now rehabilitated and free, took in their surroundings.

The center’s officials couldn’t say whether either of those two pelicans had been among those that seem to have been targeted by someone with a desire to harm them.

“One of the birds had been found at Crystal Cove beach on April 26, with a low body temperature, broken and bloody feathers on its left wing and a slight wing droop,” Szabo reports. “The pelican had a wound on its shoulder, believed to be an injury caused by a fishing hook. The other pelican was found nearby on May 13 suffering from severe dehydration and hypothermia.”

But they’re both well enough now to begin fishing again. Kelly Kveton, a board member for the Huntington Beach center, said the days when she and other officials can release their patients back to the wild is among their favorites.

“It’s the day that you see after all of that hard work, they finally get to go back [into the wild]. It’s wonderful.”

Visitors watch as two rescued pelicans are released at Crystal Cove State Beach in Newport Beach on Tuesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)


— Conservationists’ long-held dream to purchase Banning Ranch and turn it into a nature preserve and park inched a little closer to reality this week with an $8-million grant from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Now the Trust for Public Land, which has $68 million toward the purchase, needs to come up with another $32 million to seal the deal.

— The Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce last week held a “Cannabis Kickoff” to welcome those in the industry to a city where marijuana dispensaries may now conduct business legally and potentially bolster membership in a new business sector.

— The Newport Beach City Council voted this month to extend through the end of this summer a permit program instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic that allowed restaurants and other businesses to spread out onto adjacent parking lots, sidewalks and other public areas.

— The Orange County district attorney’s office is pressing the public for any additional information they might have on the two suspects in custody over the alleged road-rage killing of 6-year-old Aiden Leos of Costa Mesa. At least one other incident involving suspects Marcus Eriz, 24, and girlfriend Wynne Lee has come to light, and prosecutors want to hear from anyone who might know more. The tip phone line is (714) 834-7000, or an email can be sent to


— Corona del Mar High School alumna Maddie Musselman scored three goals as the U.S. women’s water polo national team beat Hungary 14-8 on Saturday, in the FINA World League Super Final title match in Athens, Greece. It is the seventh straight FINA World League Super Final Championship for Team USA.

— Twins Clay and Sean Rybus, incoming seniors at Newport Harbor High School who represent Newport Sea Base Rowing, placed first June 16 at the Under-19 National Team Rowing Trials in Sarasota, Fla. in the junior men’s double division, booking their ticket to Bulgaria in August for the 2021 World Rowing Junior Championships.

Clay, left, and Sean Rybus racing in the U-19 Time Trial.
(Photo courtesy U.S. Rowing)


— The Muzeo Museum and Cultural Center’s “Faces of Mankind: Portraiture for Social Change,” exhibit, which runs Wednesdays through Sundays until Aug. 11, features 35 paintings of people who are either currently unhoused or have previously faced homelessness. Some of the artworks can be purchased for about $2,000 to $7,000 through the Faces of Mankind website.

— Orange County residents on Saturday participated in an inaugural Juneteenth observance, as Segerstrom Center for the Arts partnered with the Institute of Black Intellectual Innovation of Cal State Fullerton to present “Freedom in Full Bloom: a Juneteenth Celebration.”

A member of the Dembrebrah Drum and Dance Ensemble performs during "Freedom in Full Bloom: A Juneteenth Celebration."
A member of the Dembrebrah Drum and Dance Ensemble joins visitors as he performs during “Freedom in Full Bloom: A Juneteenth Celebration” at Julianne and George Argyros Plaza in Costa Mesa on Saturday. Segerstrom Center for the Arts partnered with the Institute of Black Intellectual Innovation at Cal State Fullerton to present its first Juneteenth event celebrating Black culture.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

— Among the items in this round-up of calendar events and community announcements is news that the popular carousels in South Coast Plaza will reopen to the public this Friday after a 15-month pandemic closure. Also included is information about the Huntington Beach Academy for the Performing Arts upcoming “Pop and Rock” summer camp for students between the ages of 9 and 16.

— California lifted most of its coronavirus safety restrictions last week, and the parks at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim are continuing to reopen in phases, but a handful of the COVID-era changes are going to stick, explains Hugo Martín.


U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Seal Beach), in her first term representing the 48th Congressional District offers up this week an opinion piece on President Joe Biden’s spending and tax plan.