FORT DESOTO PARK -- Wildlife officials today released 32 brown pelicans into the wild, completing their rescue and rehabilitation from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill off the Louisiana coast.
The birds were released at midday from 16 cages along the beach in southern Pinellas County.
Some of the birds came out of the kennel with a bang and flew away into a nearly cloudless sky.
Others emerged cautiously as if they needed time to get their bearings.
It is the third release in the Tampa Bay area of oiled birds flown in from Louisiana after being rehabilitated there.
Originally, plans were made to release 60 or 70 birds today, but half of the birds were deemed to need more care and remained in the rehabilitation center in Louisiana.
The gulf oil spill began April 20 after a fire and explosion on BP's Deepwater Horizon well.