Popular brown pelicans treated in Metchosin now healthy enough to head south

They missed spring break in Malibu, but three brown pelicans will finally head south today after undergoing treatment at the Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre in Metchosin.

Two of the birds were left behind by a flock of about 15 adults and juveniles that hit Greater Victoria in early December, hanging out in the Inner Harbour and getting fed by members of the public.

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While most eventually migrated, one male and one female were too weak to make the trip.

They had frostbite on their feet and parasites and were generally in poor condition when rescued by the B.C. SPCA’s Wild ARC in January.

The third bird was found in Tofino in early December. She had parasites and head wounds, possibly inflicted by a predator.

She spent a couple of weeks at the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society in Courtenay before transferring to the Wildlife Rescue Association in Burnaby and then to Wild ARC on Feb. 17.

All three birds were healthy and ready for travel weeks ago, but it took time to get their travel documents in order, said Christina Carrières, senior wildlife rehabilitator at the centre.

They will fly to Vancouver today on a flight donated by Pacific Coastal Airlines and then board a direct flight to Los Angeles with Air Canada.

Once there, they will undergo a veterinary examination before transferring to the International Bird Rescue facility.

Carrières figures they will spend a couple of weeks at the avian all-inclusive, building up their wing strength, before being released into the wild.

“They’re doing great,” she said. “They’re really looking forward to being released, I believe. We’re really looking forward to seeing them go, knowing they’re where they belong at this time of year.”

For the male pelican, it was his second trip through rehab. A band on his leg revealed he had been through a facility in California after swallowing a fish hook.

The two females have now been banded as well, so their progress can be tracked.

It’s unusual to see so many brown pelicans in this part of the world, Carrières said. “It could be climate change. … It could be food availability, as well, in different locations at different times of the year. It could be affected by fisheries, depending on where the stocks are.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen an increase in numbers, but this year was definitely significant. In the last couple of years, we’ve had one or two pelicans in care, but never three at a time and never a flock of 15 in town.”

Wild ARC will hold its annual open house this weekend.

Doors will be open from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tours are free but reservations are required.

Register online at spca.bc.ca/tourwildarc2013.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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