Blitzed Calif. birds run afoul of law
Busted! And tossed in the slammer. Soused pelicans sober up in the drunk tank.
Chron.com | Blitzed Calif. birds run afoul of law:
Four pelicans were being detained in an animal drunk tank Friday on suspicion of public intoxication, authorities in Southern California said.
One of the birds was in guarded condition after allegedly flying under the influence Thursday and crashing through the windshield of a car on Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, Calif. The driver was rattled but uninjured.
The other California brown pelicans were nabbed in backyards or wandering streets in a daze.
Although toxicology tests aren't complete (there are no bird breathalyzers), such behavior usually signals domoic acid poisoning from eating algae, said Lisa Birkle, assistant wildlife director at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, Calif., which is caring for the brown pelicans.
Domoic acid was likely to have been the culprit behind a 1961 sea bird invasion that inspired Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror film The Birds.
According to news reports, thousands of befuddled birds rained down on Northern California towns in August 1961, slamming into buildings and pecking eight humans.
Nobody is predicting a Hitchcockian invasion in the latest incident, but Birkle urged Southern California residents to be on the lookout for pelicans acting disoriented or turning up in unusual locations.
In the past week, the wildlife center has fielded 16 calls of suspicious bird behavior. More incidents are likely, because ocean waters south of Los Angeles Harbor have tested positive for poisonous algae, Birkle said.
The pelican that collided with the car is recovering from surgery for a broken foot and a 4-inch gash in its pouch.
"She's hanging in there," Birkle said. Friday, the heavily sedated bird began eating on its own, a good sign for full recovery.
Although it will take three weeks to get results from blood tests for domoic acid, Birkle said she had never heard of a sober pelican crashing into a car. The birds have phenomenal eyesight, she explained, noting that, from high above the ocean, they are able to spot fish.
After the pelicans being held in Huntington Beach have sobered up, they will be released on their own recognizance.