Bay Area/ North SF Bay Area/ Parks & Nature
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Published on June 15, 2024
Hope Takes Flight as 27 Rehabilitated Brown Pelicans Released in Sausalito Near Iconic Golden Gate BridgeSource: Amante Darmanin from Malta, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In Sausalito, a group of Brown pelicans finally felt the sun on their wings again as 27 birds, previously grounded due to starvation, were released back into the wild. The release, overseen by International Bird Rescue, marked a high point in ongoing efforts to save the seabirds after a worrying uptick in admissions of malnourished pelicans across their California operations this spring. With the backdrop of the sweeping Golden Gate Bridge, these pelicans took flight once more, a symbol of resilience and the dedication of those at the bird rescue center. "It's amazing. This is my first bird release. It's pretty special," volunteer Margaret Hamersley shared, as per ABC7.

The organization has had its hands full since mid-April, with almost 400 starving and injured pelicans needing care. These recent releases signify a turning point, and, as Russ Curtis from International Bird Rescue said, as cited by ABC7, "We fattened them up. They've been voracious eaters going through a lot of fish". Despite their condition upon arrival, the center's rehabilitation efforts have seen a positive outcome, with a decline in the number of pelicans being admitted—hinting at a possible reprieve from the influx.

While the cause of the birds’ plight hasn’t been pinpointed, the effects of climate change hover in the narrative like an uninvited guest. "We've got issues of warming water and fish not being available where they normally were. Many theories, but it's about pelicans not being able to access the food," JD Bergeron, CEO of International Bird Rescue, as detailed by ABC7. These changes in the pelicans’ environment prompt concerns for the future of not only the pelicans but also other marine life and the ecosystems in which they interact.

The palpable sense of hope as those involved with the International Bird Rescue watch the pelicans return to their natural behaviors, can't be denied. The organization shared their joy through social media, with a post on their official platform stating, "Happiness is another Brown Pelican release: Today, 27 formerly starving seabirds, returned to wild with the backdrop of Golden Gate Bridge". A testament to the work done by the staff, supporters, and volunteers seemingly unwavering in their commitment to these animals, according to the International Bird Rescue.

With about 120 pelicans still receiving care, the center's efforts are far from over. However, the sight of the once-grounded birds rising above Fort Baker provides a sliver of hope that with sufficient aid, the Brown pelican population along the West Coast may continue to soar once again.