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12 brown pelicans released into the wild after mass stranding event in Southern California

One brown pelican takes flight and watched by beach-goers.
Beachgoers watch a brown pelican swoop to freedom from the Corona del Mar State Beach breakwater path on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It’s one small step for pelican, one giant leap for pelican-kind.

Emerging from a handful of carriers and with the encouragement of Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center staff, 12 brown pelicans spread their wings and took off beneath a bright blue sky at Corona del Mar State Beach on Friday afternoon.

The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach in a news release said the birds were victims of what appears to be a mass stranding event that occurred along the Southern California coastline. The reasons for thousands of birds being beached are unclear, but several of the pelicans needed sheltering at local wildlife care centers earlier this spring.

Brown pelicans take flight from the Corona del Mar State Beach breakwater path on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Many, the center said, came with critically low body temperatures, dehydration, emaciation and parasites.

Early investigations by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in May suggest that numerous pelicans died of starvation as opposed to disease or unusual parasites, though state officials have not officially confirmed what the underlying cause is.

An unspecified number of other pelicans has not yet been released as the center said many came with secondary problems such as those with fishing gear injuries and skeletal abnormalities.

California brown pelicans were considered endangered in 1970, but the population has rebounded, and the species was removed from the endangered species list in 2009.

Volunteer and filmmaker Sam Beck wheels brown pelicans down the Corona del Mar State Beach.
Volunteer and filmmaker Sam Beck wheels brown pelicans down the Corona del Mar State Beach breakwater for release on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

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