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California brown pelicans stranded along the Oregon coast are starving by the hundreds and begging for food instead of migrating south in a rare and somewhat macabre phenomenon.
Dead birds in full mating plumage have washed onto shore, and the normally skittish pelicans have been begging for food from people in places such as the Brookings area, now home to several hundred pelicans, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"That's a behavior we've never seen before in Oregon," says Roy Lowe, manager of the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex based in Newport. "They're in sad shape."
Typically, the birds migrate south in November toward breeding grounds in Southern California, and no one knows why these birds have stayed, Lowe says.
One theory is that high concentrations of bait fish off the Oregon coast enticed them to remain well into December, Lowe says. When currents pushed the bait fish toward deeper water, it left the pelicans foodless and too weak to forage themselves, he says.