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Pelican sightings on the rise at La Jolla Cove

While everyone loves the wildlife, some point out there are some drawbacks, especially for local restaurants with outdoor dining.

SAN DIEGO — Tony Gild has been living in La Jolla for 40 years and just the other day, he came across something at the Children’s Pool he’d never seen before, so he pulled out his camera.

“I often walk my dogs in the area,” said Gild. “And all of a sudden I saw this amazing spectacle of a pod of pelicans filling the whole beach and in the water, and I thought, ‘Wow a spectacle. Never seen this before.’”

Tony’s pictures got a lot of attention, so much so that they were featured in a La Jolla Light article. Many people thought that perhaps they had found some food there.

“The pelicans feed offshore, so they wouldn’t be feeding right in that Children’s Pool area,” said Tammy Russell, PhD candidate at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “So the fact that they were all just kind of together just standing on the beach, you know, they were roosting or waiting there until they go out and forage again.”

Russell says there may have been a perfectly good explanation for the rare sighting.

“I think what was so unusual in that photo is that they were down on the beach at the Children’s Pool and not up at their typical cliffs,” said Russell. “And I think that was a little concerning because people don’t typically see that. Often when it’s windy, they’ll go down to the beach because it’s more sheltered and because there’s been some windy conditions, that’s probably what happened.”

Typically, the brown pelicans around La Jolla usually congregate a little further north on the cliffs next to La Jolla Cove.

“This is the first time that I can remember seeing this amount of pelicans,” said Bob Evans, president of the non-profit La Jolla Parks and Beaches. “They’re mixing in with the seals and the sea lions and the cormorants and the sea gulls, and we’ve got one big wildlife preserve.”

We typically see an influx of pelicans to the Cove area around late spring and early summer, but this year many are noticing more numbers than in years past.

“There are thousands of pelicans that have become very comfortable here,” said Evans.

While everyone loves the wildlife, Evans points out there are some drawbacks, especially for local restaurants with outdoor dining.

“Lots of birds, lots of animals” said Evans. “And with them come lots of stench and lots of waste and depending on where the wind blows, we got it going right up to condos, to restaurants, to hotels.”

All in all, given that brown pelicans were once on the endangered species list up until 2009, seeing more of them at the Cove is a sign of their conservation success story.

“They’re a pretty amazing sight,” said Gild. “Just another way the jewel sparkles in a natural way.”

WATCH RELATED: California Coastal Commission approves closure of sea lion rookery during pupping season (April 2022).


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