San Diego Zoo staff hand-raising dalmatian pelican chicks - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego Zoo staff hand-raising dalmatian pelican chicks

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Two newborn Dalmatian pelicans are being housed at the Avian Propagation Center at the San Diego Zoo after their parents were unable to care for them, the zoo announced Tuesday.

The fish-eating birds were born two and 11 days ago at the Safari Park.

Zookeepers will hand-raise the chicks for about two months, when they should be strong enough to rejoin their flock. Pelican chicks grow rapidly and should be covered in their downy feathers in a few weeks.

The Dalmatian pelican chicks are part of a North American breeding program because the species is vulnerable. Since the breeding program was started in 2006, 34 chicks have been hatched. Some have been sent to the Phoenix Zoo, where a second breeding colony is being established.

Dalmatian pelicans are one of the rarest pelican species in the world and the largest of the pelican species, according to the San Diego Zoo. When they fledge at about six to seven months, the birds could measure 5 to 6 feet in length and have a wingspan as long as 11 feet -- making them one of the largest flighted birds.

Dalmatian pelicans live and nest in freshwater wetlands and rivers throughout Europe and Asia and have gone extinct in some of their native regions because of damage to their breeding and weaning areas. They also face competition for food, and are hunted as a food source and for their bills, which herders use to comb horses.

Safari Park guests can see Dalmatian pelicans in the middle of the large pond in the South African exhibit when they ride the African Tram.

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