Seven Pinellas County pelicans were released back into the wild after falling ill to a mysterious sickness.
Since St. Petersburg pelican populations made headlines in January, rescue workers at Owl’s Nest Sanctuary have worked to rehabilitate the birds.
“I always laugh,” said Kris Porter, “they never look back. They’re gone. They’re already in the water floating away. So this has been good for everybody.”
According to leaders at Owl’s Nest, their goal was to get the birds released as soon as possible.
“It’s their nesting season,” explained Ria Warner. “So, we’re hoping that by getting them back out right now we’re going to get some babies this year.”
The pelicans released Thursday were rescued from Coffee Pot Bayou. The birds were among approximately 70 pelicans that got sick. Half died.
The city believes the mystery illness is related to a fish kill at a retention lake in the Riviera Bay neighborhood, but it will be weeks before their test results are finalized.
Water Resources Interim-Director John Palenchar said preliminary test results are helping them narrow down the cause.
“We were able to rule out red tide and were able to rule out avian influenza,” said Palenchar. “So, we’re still investigating things like an avian botulism.”
Other sanctuaries and bird rescues hope to release more pelicans next week.