15 pelicans dead, dozens injured in Avila Beach

August 26, 2011


In what experts are calling a feeding frenzy, at least 15 Brown Pelicans have died and dozens have injured themselves in the excitement of finding an unusual amount of fish in the San Luis Harbor in Avila Beach.

The popular birds, whose wing spans can reach 8 feet, dramatically dive into ocean waters to scoop up fish they spot from above. The injured pelicans appear to be mostly juveniles, who during their dives, clip rocks near the rocky waters edge where large numbers of anchovies have gathered, said San Luis Obispo Harbor District Manager Steve McGrath.

Dozens of Pelicans, some with mangled wings or bloody chests, have congregated at Port San Luis to partake of the feast. Volunteers from Pacific Wildlife Care were in Avila Beach on Thursday morning collecting some of the bloody birds.

However, by late afternoon, at least six more injured pelicans were perched on the rocks adjacent to the pier. Dozens of young pelicans, with their abdomens extended from the banquet, were so lethargic that young children on the pier could actually pet the majestic animals.

“I have seen an abundance of dead pelicans in the past two weeks, more than I have ever seen before,”  said Kurt Miller, an employee of Patriot Sport Fishing Tackle and Bait since 1986. “The bloody pelicans, I have never seen before. And some are acting very lethargic.





Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

According to “The Medieval Bestiary” the Pelican is “A bird that revives its dead young with its own


Under ‘General Attributes” they state “As young Pelicans grow, they begin to strike their parents in the

face with their beaks. Though the Pelican has great love for its young, it strikes back and kills them”

After three days, the mother pierces her side or her breast and lets her blood fall on the dead birds,

and thus revives them. Some say it is the male Pelican that kills the young and revives them with his


Writings from the 1st, 7th and 13th century CE relate to the Pelican as a bird that pierces its side or

its breast until the blood flows forth.

There are many illustrations of Pelicans in a variety of settings like manuscripts, sculptures and even

church carvings depicting the mother feeding her chicks with falling drops of blood from the breast


The Catholic Encyclopedia states “The Pelican is a symbol of the atonement and the Redeemer. It was supposed to wound itself in order to feed its young with its blood to bring life to those who were dead”.

Allusion is made to this belief in “Hamlet” (act iv) ;

To his good friend thus wide I’ll ope my arms

And, like the kind, life-rendering pelican,

Repast them with my blood.

See my theory has potential and these birds have the potential to peck open there chests, my friend say only a few pelicans be cause of the size and amount of spines protruding from their chest were not going to make it, and to stand up his nick name is the hammer and he is the strongest man I have ever met, would you like to slam him into the blacktop for being a wacko! Why are you name calling and why is your post not deleted, you don’t know me or what belts I hold, or who I trained under so leave it alone, maybe go lie down for a nap.

Looks like we need a ruling on this from the Pope, himself.

Thanks for being cool Side Show Bob, that was funny, if you watch the ksby video for a split second you can see a bird pecking right at his chest, the other bird is chewing away at his, but the view is obscured by the rocks, we will find out what happened together my friend.

“This one is he who lay upon the breast

Of our true Pelican, and who was chosen

From on the cross to take up the great duty ”

Christ is the Pelican that in legend fed its young with blood from its own side.

Are we are witnessing a miracle on Avila Bay ? no wonder this thread is filled with passion, sacred heart of Jesus is a Pelican !

thanks wolfhound I love arcane obscure religious references

The fish may go in the dumpster in Morro Bay, but the birds go in and grab the filleted fish and eat them. As we cleaned our fish yesterday, the pelicans were very assertive on wanting some food as bait is a little scarce in the bay. I watched pelican after pelican eat a filleted rockfish without pecking itself to death. They know how to eat fish. That is what they do. I heard a story about some whacko (maybe cheesburger) who was assaulting fishermen at the cleaning table in Morro Bay on Friday for feeding the birds. He actually grabbed the throat of a couple of guys. Kind of wish he would do that to me. Asphalt smarts when hitting it head first.

These birds like cormorants and sea gulls have become accustomed to trash feeding and dumpster diving. They choose to eat this waste in preference to natural foods because of ease and availablity. IMHO, these birds are self inflicting these wounds and did not get injured by any hand of man… If sharks or other predators had attacked them, little would remain of the bird.


” IMHO, these birds are self inflicting these wounds and did not get injured by any hand of man… If sharks or other predators had attacked them, little would remain of the bird.”


There will always be those of the non logical , non scientific , non factual point of view. They will continue to have those view points and post them.

There are many examples of “the sky is falling” point of view being reported in both the main stream media and online, but that in itself does not constitute a truth…

Side bar,

As party fishing boats come back into the harbors after a day of fishing, they gut and fillet their catch, then throw the carcasses over board where pelicans, gulls and cormorants wait to pick them up, sometimes there are hundreds of birds foloowing each boat. This can be seen from shore or by any one who has gone fishing out of Avila, Morro Bay or San Simeon. A very good place to witness this activity is at the entrance to Morro Bay harbor.

Never have I seen any birds injured by feeding on these carcasses, especially chest wounds.

Why don’t you standup and close the dumpster lid, the truth will be found, and friend, if I witnessed anybody grabbing fisherman’s necks I would be inclined to first call 911 then do a non-violent citizen’s arrest, keeps you out of jail, now go pick a fight with some other wacko okay?

Cheesy, you just don’t get it. These birds have been eating filleted fish for years and years and years. If eating filleted fish was such a problem, tell me this, why haven’t the birds been showing these signs each and every year from May 1 – Nov 15 that would coincide with the rockfish season. This is a one or two week issue that happens to coincide with the bait being close to shore in avila. There were no less than 40 pelicans near the cleaning table on Saturday in Morro and not one bird had the chest injuries. It is only in avila that i have heard or read. I fish out of Morro almost every Saturday and have never seen this. And YOU calling me a bully because i will standup for myself if someone grabs my throat as some enviro-whacko did on Friday to others is off base. I will admit I was stereotyping with you because of what you wrote here but you sounded the part you must admit.

They also said it causes other harm. In some cases, the scraps fishermen toss to pelicans are larger than the types of fish they would naturally eat. The bones from the leftovers can get caught in the birds’ throats, causing them to choke or starve.

C’mon give them a break, let’s say seals, sharks, spines. and possibly themselves.

One hell of a day, eh?

Now I have some back up from Morro Bay Harbor Patrol, watch the KSBY video and see why, the birds are pecking them selves open, and get this the Harbor Patrol agrees this maybe the problem because like I said they don’t throw the carcasses in Morro Bay,”

KSBY post,”Watch the KSBY, video as confirmed by a harbor patrol officer, who has also witnessed the birds pecking themselves open on this video, watch the pelicans in the background pecking at their chests, please have an open mind, Harbor patrol reports no injured birds in Morro bay at this time.

Look very closely at the bottom picture of the pelican on THIS page, he is pecking at his own chest, look at it! The beck is sharp and could do this type of damage and in your own picture the becks on the wound. Mounting evidence the wounds are indeed self inflicted.

What came first, cheezy…the wound or the “pecking” at the wound?

I see Pelicans preening as Pelicans do all day when they roosting. I think if you had a gaping wound on your chest, you might be inclined to fiddle with it, too.

Bottom line I want to find out what happened to these birds and you don’t.

There you go babbling again. I’d be interested in knowing the cause just as well. From all your rhetoric, it appears you are absolutely positive of the cause. I , on the other hand, would rather wait and see what the DFG comes up with based on hard evidence, not hearsay.

I’ve seen when there are a lot of bait fish out there (Avila Bay), it’s crazy. The birds zoom down and there’s all kinds of birds and fish flopping all over the place. I won’t go in the ocean when it’s like this. I was in a kayak the day before that woman was killed by the shark out there a few years ago. It freaked me out because I could feel the seals hitting my kayak and there were all types of birds and fish I even saw a dolphin. I paddled up to the shore so fast. It does happen but it seems worse this year. That might be why so many of these birds are getting hurt, they seem to get closer to the shore/rocks every year.

The beck is on the wound, see how it’s in the exact place for an operation to remove a foreign object, research will tell. Why leave any stone unturned when it comes to the death of an innocent bird, for gods sake. The Harbor Patrol is looking for tips on who fed the birds the giant fish fileted bodies, when it all comes out, I want a job if, I’m right, agree, or agree to disagree, makes not much difference to me. But I still want a job.


This occurrence happens every year up and down the coast as the bait fish (anchovies, smelt or herring) move into the shallower bay areas. The pelicans wait for them to be driven to the surface by the predator fish, then they take flight and dive into the bait ball to feed, the cormorants and gulls take the injured ones. Never in my years of living along the California coast have I seen the type of injury these photos show. The photos show a very specific injury, in a very specific place and IMHO it has nothing to do with the birds diving behavior or predator eating behavior. I am not a scientist but a long time surfer and observer of wild life behavior.The bait fish do not congregate near or in the rocks but in the open water just beyond the surf line. This bait fish behavior can be seen all along the coast and the predator birds can be seen easily from shore as well.

“The injured pelicans appear to be mostly juveniles, who during their dives, clip rocks near the rocky waters edge where large numbers of anchovies have gathered, said San Luis Obispo Harbor District Manager Steve McGrath.”,,,,,Right, oh we get it now , how about one of you brilliant HD managers try eating an uncooked fileted fish, I rest my case again, and anyone who will devourer an UN-cooked large rock fish fileted carcass, put your mouth up to the task your words have made for you, by the way you have to take out your dentures first Pelicans don’t have much for teeth.


Your babbling and incoherent posts have become tiresome to read.

So you’re suggesting that all this chest damage and these dead birds are all due to the rockfish carcasses being disposed of through the fish cleaning station on the pier?

{scratches head}

Perhaps you can explain how these obvious symptoms that are seen on this group of birds are manifested by such a claim.

Morro bay puts it’s fish carcasses in the trash dumpster, find me one injured pelican in Morro Bay and I’ll stop posting here forever!

It’s cloudy whenever it rains; therefore, rain must cause clouds.

He told me of pelicans swallowing giant fish head/carcases and the dead fish or what was left of them after the human aspect of this scenario had removed 95% of the meat, my friend on the phone told me he was sure these pelicans were not going to live, huge fileted fish stuck in there throat, okay (,it’s already law not to feed them this type of thing in Florida), now lighten up.

You need to come up with a new theory. Pelicans and sea gulls have been eating filleted fish carcasses for hundreds of years. I just drove by he cleaning station in Morro Bay. Guess what? Pelicans eating fish heads and bodies from the cleaning station dumpster and no bloody pelicans. For centuries boats have fished and thrown the carcasses overboard. I know you won’t be convinced because it doesn’t fit neatly in your blame everything on the humans world.

Chese, I can see what you’re sayng and I believe what you are saying to be true, I saw the link that you provided. But I don’t believe that’s what’s going on out in Avila. It’s simply a food frenzy and they’re getting too close to the shore. From what I’ve seen, I’ll bet some of them get hurt from flying into each other.

They don’t fly into each other and have ten times the eyesight we have. Meaning well they don’t crash into anything, I have driven my boat slowly through thousands of them , they never hit each other or crashed or shit on me, it was magnificent.

The truth shall slowly reach the masses, thanks for your support!

Hey BOB not many like your comments either, you go eat a fileted fish carcass and see what happens to your neck and throat, now get to it , eat it right down, no hesitating SSB just slide that bony spiny thing right down, DO IT! GO side show GO!, Nope he wouldn’t do it, or without immediate medical attention would die like the birds, this theory may just be proven correct!

And all you brain dead [people who think birds can eat fish without meat on them , well jump off the pier.

cheezy, the fish cleaning station at PSL has been there for what….20+ years or more? I can only remember so far back.

This is the first time this phenomenon has occurred at Port.

Riddle me this…

Why now?

What has so suddenly changed?

Why not at Morro? The birds regularly pull carcass out of the dumpster there when it is left open. The seagulls fly them out to the parking lot and I’ve seen Pelicans scoop ’em frequently.

This issue would appear to be the battle hill you so readily choose to die on. Might I suggest you don a snadwich board with your message and maybe a funny hat, wave a bell, and march your protest at the Harford Pier for all to see.

Pardon my spelling!

* a sandwich board…

Here’s the deal Side Show Bob, I got called this day by a surfing friend of many years and he had never scene anything like this either, he told me of the birds warfing down huge carcases in a frenzy, these birds can pull off eating this type of thing at there own pace, my friend just told me this was the first time he had scene any pelicans eat this rapidly a bunch of huge spiny fish carcases.

AND THEN 15 PELICANS DIE, I am not blaming anyone, Harbor Patrol is looking into this and if I am wrong at least I tried to find the cause.

If you can’t see the feathers in the birds beak in this picture on this page look a little closer and you might change your mind, or call Morro Bay Habor Patrol.

AND THIS,”Might I suggest you don a snadwich board with your message and maybe a funny hat, wave a bell, and march your protest at the Harford Pier for all to see.” is not called for my friend.

Quoting a better blogger,”You are just mean to be mean,” I rest my case, you may all find out that these birds have pecked into their own chests from the discomfort of spines,,,,,,, before you hit the red call fish and game, this has happened many times before.

chese, I didn’t see any of the articles that you’re talking about but right or wrong what you are saying makes sense to me.

You can watch it with your own eyes go to KSBY.com and watch the pelican video a few times , notice the birds in the back ground just visible opening their chests by pecking at themselves, thanks and you will always be a friend to me.

Tracy and others, a friend called me during this episode, and told me to get my NIKON D-90 and telephoto lens right down there ASAP. I was of course busy, here’s what happened one boat owner just plain ran over two of the pelicans and toasted them instantly with his boat trailer, the other chest injuries are unrelated to these two birds, my friend told me of fisherman fileting there fish at the pier, (which is common practice and the thrown the carcases down the hole in the table on the pier (public), fish filet tables.

He told me of pelicans swallowing giant fish head/carcases and the dead fish or what was left of them after the human aspect of this scenario had removed 95% of the meat, my friend on the phone told me he was sure these pelicans were not going to live, huge fileted fish stuck in there throat, okay (KSBY, mystery solved), this is from this fishes mouth, if you starved a little kid and then put a fish full of bones in front of him, do you think, would he eat it? OF COARSE HE WOULD. Stories of fisherman from let’s take a guess, (east of here), laughing as these magnificent birds tried to choke down a fish bone sandwich that was as large as them before the meat was displaced into a fisherman,s bag.

How would a bird get a fish bone caught in it’s throat out, with no hands?

Answer, they don’t, they erupt threw the birds through the birds neck and hopefully the bird lives, I have also witnessed these amazing birds successfully swallow huge unmodified fish.

In Closing do some checking and you will find the truth lies within this post, he was there my friend and is as big as the hulk if he had witnesses any of the aforementioned things in the blog he would of done a citizen’s arrest, with one hand tied behind his back.

Instead of typing a special comment for CCN this was my comment on KSBY, that’s why there are a few confusing names, I have never seen a pelican dive into a rock in all my 54 years of being on the ocean, in short poppy-cock. Cover up , the fish were injured by giant fish bones and spines the fisherman fed them. Check this out you will find it true.

Oh yeah, Pacific Wildlife care to the rescue! Give me a break!!

This group makes me PUKE! Saving the world, one overpopulated furbag at a time. Now with the birds.

Let nature run it’s course you fools. Why are you trying to save every injured thing that touches the beach? Save your money and effort. It’s one thing if man has intervened and caused injury but with natural causes like this? Give us a break.

The pelicans would not be present at Avila in such large numbers if there wasn’t sufficient food for them. The problem is the fish die-off, not the response of the pelicans. Indeed, we want to keep as many pelicans as possible in the area to deal with the large number of fish.

This is an unusual phenomenon where an extraordinary number of sardines herded into Avila. If the pelicans, other seabirds, and predator fish weren’t there to eat the sardines, we could end up with an oxygen-deprived bay.

A similar situation happened in the Redondo Beach area in March and in the Ventura area in April of this year (see url and quote from LATimes article, below.

That many sardines can use up enough of the available oxygen in the water such that there are large die-offs. These die-offs are horrible to deal with.




Six tons of sardines were found dead in Ventura Harbor on Monday, following a similar incident in Redondo Beach. Both groups died of oxygen deprivation, but what drove them into the harbors is a mystery.

April 20, 2011|By Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times

A spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game said a warden visited the harbor and concluded the die-off was the result of oxygen deprivation, not water pollution, toxins or algae blooms — the usual causes of fish kills.

Last month’s massive die-off occurred after millions of sardines swam into King Harbor and suffocated. It took days for crews to scoop and vacuum up about 175 tons of fish carcasses from the harbor.

Those sardines tested positive for domoic acid, a neurotoxin generated by algae blooms, but scientists believe the fish — perhaps disoriented because of the toxic algae — swam into the enclosed harbor in such huge numbers that they died as a result of critically low oxygen levels, not poisoning. Still, what caused them to swim into the marina remains a mystery….


Much different dynamic than what we have here. Those 2 harbors affected are fully enclosed and protected by jetty. Though are are exposed to tidal influence, far less water is exchanged in those environments as their inlets are the harbor mouth only.

Morro Bay would be a far more likely candidate for something like this then Port San Luis which is fully exposed to open sea.

There seems to be a few things going on in the ocean that seem weird lately. I never watch these shows but I happened to have caught bits and pieces of this shark show during ‘shark week’ on the discovery channel. They said that there are more sharks closer to shore than ever before. They even mentioned our two local people that were killed in shark attacks fairly recently. They had amazing videos of sharks all over the world that were close to shore in numbers higher than ever recorded. According this show there aren’t more sharks, fish in general are just hanging out closer to shore. This very well might be a man made problem. A lack of oxgen is causing all kinds of problems with the ocean and it’s getting worse.

How do I put this kindly,,SSB you are such a tool. Moderator, I didn’t call him a jerk or an @ssh*ll, is ‘tool’ acceptable?

What’s the matter, typo…my comment wasn’t warm and fuzzy and enough like an otter for you?

Oh I don’t really care SSB. You are just mean to be mean, nothing new and nothing unexpected. You are always nasty because either you truly are nasty, you have a sick fake persona that seeks attention on the internet, or else you are simply an unhappy lonely person. Either way I really don’t care. I’ve been watching you for a long time, nothing you say could ever bother me. I only read your posts because they are short, so what’s a seconds here or there.

YOU WRITE,”It’s one thing if man has intervened and caused injury but with natural causes like this?”

Well he did! And I like always have an eye witness or I would not open my mouth and be known an idiot, I would keep it shut a keep up the doubt

How would you do swallowing a 10″ fileted gopher cod?. And you weigh maybe five lbs. to start with?

In other countries they don’t have them, why ,,, because they ate them all. Seagulls too!

his is for you, try to feed them garbage in Florida.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 23, 2008 10:10 am Post subject: You could be ticketed for feeding brown pelicans Reply with quote

Ok, so this doesn’t really have to do with CROW but in the long run it will, I hope. Maybe, just maybe, we won’t have to treat as many “Pier Pellies” with hooks in them!

Starting next week you could be ticketed for feeding brown pelicans

news-press.com • June 23, 2008

Tallahassee, Florida – Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a rule prohibiting the public from feeding the pelicans at all docks along the coast. Starting July 1, feeding pelicans will be a low-level misdemeanor that could result in a $500 fine or 60 days in jail.

State officials said the free meals change the birds’ natural instincts to hunt and migrate for food.

They also said it causes other harm. In some cases, the scraps fishermen toss to pelicans are larger than the types of fish they would naturally eat. The bones from the leftovers can get caught in the birds’ throats, causing them to choke or starve.

Pelicans also can be injured by fish hooks when they attempt to steal fish straight from fishermen’s lines

Wildlife officers likely won’t start handing out the tickets immediately, said Karen Parker, an agency public information coordinator.

The pelican-feeding ban takes aim at large-scale feeding, such as fish houses and commercial boats that dump scraps into the water or tour boats where guests might toss food to the birds.


Find what brings you joy–and go there.

“Nature red in tooth and claw…”

I have been watching the flock for several weeks now. It is huge, several thousand in size. It is sight to watch them dive bomb into the water close to shore in such large numbers.

I’ve noticed an increase for the past few years and as you said especially over the last couple of months.

There must be a conspiracy here someplace.

I believe that the energy policies of administrations from the early 2000’s has resulted in warmer waters in Avila, attracting these baitfish and therefore responsibity for this pelican Armageddon.

The blame falls squarely on Bush’s shoulders.

Cmon I don’t like shrubs either but you try ting your hands behind your back and eating a small fileted fish, I rest my case.

I hate to bring this to your attention but pelicans don’t have hands. andl people aren’t pelicans.. Pelicans have a much different digestive system than humans do. Please quit comparing people to pelicans. You really need to get a grip on natural selection and how nature works. You’ve proven yourself to be a fool with the statements you’ve made on this subject. It’s people like you who should never be allowed to serve on a jury. It’s sad that you don’t understand the concept of survival of the fittest and how it is good for the species. Saving the weak animals just makes the gene pool that much worse and goes contrary to the theory of evolution. Every weak animal that is saved makes it that much harder for the species to survive in the long run.

If survival of the fittest be a test , you would be ate up my man!

Hope most realize my comment was tongue-in-cheek :)