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Pelicans blown off course get plane ride home

World

Rhode Island - Two brown pelicans blown to Rhode Island by the winds of Hurricane Sandy will be flown in a private plane back to their natural habitat in Florida, an animal clinic worker said on Friday.

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CALIPATRIA, CA - JULY 3: A brown pelican lands on Mullet Island, one of the four Salton Buttes, small volcanoes on the southern San Andreas Fault, on July 3 near Calipatria, California. Mullet Island, the only place for many thousands of island nesting birds to breed at the Salton Sea, will become vulnerable to attacks by predators such as raccoons and coyotes if the water level drops just a couple more feet. Scientists have discovered that human-created changes effecting the Salton Sea appear to be the reason why California's massive "Big One" earthquake is more than 100 years overdue and building up for the greatest disaster ever to hit Los Angeles and Southern California. Researchers found that strands of the San Andreas Fault under the 45-mile long rift lake have have generated at least five 7.0 or larger quakes about every 180 years. This ended in the early 20th century when authorities stopped massive amounts of Colorado River water from periodically flooding the into this sub-sea level desert basin. Such floods used to regularly trigger major quakes and relieve building seismic pressure but the last big earthquake on the southern San Andreas was about 325 years ago. Dangerous new fault branches that could trigger a 7.8 quake have recently been discovered under the Salton Sea. David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

The first of the large birds, whose wingspans measure 6 to 7 feet (about 2 metres), was found on the side of a road at Fishermen's Memorial State Park on November 7, nine days after the storm made landfall in New Jersey, said Jennifer Brooks, clinic director at the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island.

The bird, a juvenile likely from a nest in North Carolina, had been tagged by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and records showed it was presumed to have died, she said.

The second pelican landed on a fishing boat about 190 km south of Block Island the following day, she said. The crew of the boat, which provides fish to SeaWorld theme parks, fed the bird for several days before docking.

“They were a little bit thin, they were a little beat up from the storm,” Brooks said of the birds. They had lost tail feathers and suffered scratches to their throat pouches, which are prone to frostbite in northern climates, Brooks said.

Animal workers had been keeping the birds in an outdoor shelter before moving them into a tent inside the clinic, she said.

They were scheduled to be flown in containers similar to dog crates in a small private plane on Saturday to the Mary Keller Seabird Rehabilitation Sanctuary in Florida, she said.

The cost of the flight - about $2 000 (about R17 700) - will be covered by public donations, Brooks said.

Brown pelicans typically fly as far north as North Carolina during the summer to form breeding colonies before flying south for the winter, Brooks said.

Birds naturally are blown northward by storms, but “it's unusual for us to have pelicans,” she said.

“They do get pushed by these northward storms, so that's what happened to these guys,” she said. “They should have been going south.” - Reuters

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