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Brown pelicans who lingered on the Oregon Coast through the winter released into the wild
Oregon Coast Notes - News

By Lynne Terry for The Oregonian

Brown PelicanA brown pelican regains freedom after months in rehab at the Wildlife Center of the North Coast near Astoria. Nearly a dozen were released this month and about 20 more will be freed in the weeks ahead. They washed up on Oregon beaches in January and February at a time when they should have been in California and Mexico.Nearly a dozen brown pelicans that bewildered scientists by lingering this winter on the Oregon coast instead of flying south have been returned to the wild.

They were released earlier this month by the Wildlife Center of the North Coast after being fattened up and made fit for foraging on their own.

"It's nice to see them go out again in good health and fully conditioned," said Sharnelle Fee, director of the wildlife center near Astoria.

Nearly 20 more are still at the center awaiting release in the weeks ahead.

The pelicans were found washed up in January and February on Oregon beaches from Newport to Astoria at a time when they should have been basking in the sun with their mates in California and Mexico. Instead, they stuck around, marking a break with traditional behavior that puzzled marine biologists. Some suspect it could be a sign of climate change, though no one knows for sure...

The birds, which also live on the Gulf Coast and southeast coastline of the United States, were driven to near extinction in the 1960s from eating DDT-contaminated fish. After they were put on the endangered species list in 1970 and the chemical was banned in 1972, they bounced back. The birds were taken off the endangered list at the end of 2009.

About 20,000 live in the Northwest during the summer. In the past, they've always left before winter but in recent years, many have stuck around through November and December...

Fee expects to release the remaining brown pelicans as soon as the weather calms.

"We're happy to let them go," she said. "They're sick of being in captivity."

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