SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Five brown pelicans nursed to health at SeaWorld San Diego were returned to the wild at Mission Bay Thursday.
Three of the five birds were from Arizona, likely blown off course by storms, said SeaWorld's Kelly Terry.
She said they were part of an influx of 80 malnourished or injured pelicans to be brought to SeaWorld since July 1. For the year, 151 of the sea birds have been cared for at the facility, and 17 are still being treated, compared to 175 all of last year, she said.
The rate of pelican rescues always rises in the summer, but the numbers are a little higher than normal this year, Terry said.
"We think there is a rise in population," she said. "Brown pelicans were removed from the endangered species list in 2010."
Many of the treated birds are juveniles and have injuries from fishing lines or hooks, she said.
Terry said SeaWorld takes in pelicans from rehabilitation facilities that don't have enough space for large birds. Birds are released when their injuries have healed, their nourishment has improved and their feathers are clean.
Brown pelicans are normally found along coastal habitats along the West Coast and Gulf Coast regions of the U.S., and in Central and South America. They generally weigh around 7 1/2 pounds and have a wing span of 5 1/2 feet.