Have Alameda brown pelicans lost their ability to fly in formation?

DR. JOAN: For years, I have watched the morning activities of the brown pelicans from my morning coffee perch across from Alameda Beach. Every morning, they fly from west to east in large flocks of 30 to 125 birds, stopping to feed when the tide is right.

Until last year, each group flew in a single line, forming a perfect sine wave. Each one precisely follows the bird in front of it. They flap their wings to rise 30 to 40 feet, then glide down to skim the surface so closely that their wing tips dimple the water’s surface as they flap their wings to rise again.

However, they have nearly completely lost this precision over the last two years. They straggle in random groups, some large and some small. Occasionally, a resemblance of the old formation occurs. What do you believe happened? Were they without a leader? Is homeschooling a failure? Did they decide to fly freely without restrictions?

There is an existential crisis.

— Alameda resident Roger Ecker

DR. ROGER: Perhaps they have too much emotional baggage in their pouches.

I spoke with some bird experts, and while they couldn’t give me an exact reason for the change, they said it’s not uncommon for pelicans to fly alone and not in formation.

It could be related to food availability. Because there are fewer fish, they are more widely distributed. It could be due to the number of other birds present at a given time of year. Regardless, they claim there is nothing to worry about.

Other than the usual injuries and entanglements in abandoned fishing lines and hooks, JD Bergeron of International Bird Rescue near Fairfield says they haven’t seen any illnesses or concerns with brown pelicans.

Maybe the pelicans are as confused as we are in these post-pandemic, unsettling times.

DR. JOAN: A horrible odor is apparently coming from a dead animal under my daughter’s house. Her husband claims there is no way to get there. He can’t see exactly where it is or what it is, but the smell pervades the floor and the children’s bedrooms are affected.

Do you have any recommendations?

— San Jose’s R. Nakano

DEAR R.: Hiring a pest control company to locate the source of the odor, remove the dead animal, and clean the area will help eliminate the odor and any biological concerns.

If nothing is done, the stench will go away in a few weeks, but it will be agonizing until then.

Krane Pond update

That is fantastic news. Save Mount Diablo has reached its $500,000 goal for purchasing and preserving Krane Pond, an important water source for wildlife on Mount Diablo and surrounding areas, thanks to your support.

I’ll go into more detail about what happens next in next week’s column, but thank you on behalf of Save Mount Diablo, myself, and wildlife.

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