Dead Birds Remain Mystery

Kirt Ramirez
A RESIDENT sits in a chair facing a cluster of live birds. A dead bird appears in the foreground on the sand near the Peninsula.

Rachel Mellon went for an early morning walk on the beach and came across several dead pelicans and seagulls.

The lifeless bird bodies were found at the waterline between the Granada Avenue lifeguard station and the Seal Beach jetty Monday, Sept. 28.

“There were a lot of dead birds,” she said. “I counted 11 pelicans and three seagulls.”

Having moved to Long Beach in May, she didn’t know what to make of the discovery – whether it was commonplace for the area.

The birds, she said, were fresh-looking, as if they had perished within the last few moments. The feathers and features appeared healthy.

“It was very odd,” Mellon said. “It looked like they had been alive minutes ago. They didn’t look diseased or anything.”

Mellon doesn’t know why the seabirds died but suspects it was from something they ate.

“I have no idea,” she said. “I’m brand new to Long Beach. I was a little freaked. They did not look like diseased birds. They looked like beautiful birds.”

Other residents stumbled upon the fowl and also looked for answers, she said.

Mellon waited for the Marine Bureau to open at 7:30 a.m. and called right on the minute. She said the agency said to call the nonemergency police dispatch, which she did, and then she was transferred to Animal Control.

Mellon called the Beachcomber around 10 a.m. and a reporter went to the location around 2 p.m. but couldn’t find the deceased wildlife. However, a large, dead, aquatic bird was spotted on the sand but it appeared it had been there several days.

A resident relaxing in a beach chair near the dead bird – adjacent to a cluster of live birds – said she suspects birds are dying from flying into kite surfing wires. Kite surfing is a popular activity in that vicinity.

In response to emailed questions from the Beachcomber Sept. 28, Animal Care Services Bureau Manager Staycee Dains responded promptly that the bird deaths were under investigation and, “yes this is something that animal services will handle and sometimes we work with beach maintenance on issues of deceased animals on beaches.”

Dains provided an update later: “I was able to reach the Marine bureau who says there were six birds and they appeared to have washed up on the shore. They disposed of the birds. We arrived after the birds had already been removed.”

Regarding the kite surfing theory, Dains said, “Currents often deliver a large amount of debris in that area so I am not sure, nor have I heard about kite surfing being a significant danger for birds. I will look into that.”

After Mellon was told of the kite theory, she said she doesn’t believe wires caused the deaths.

“None of the birds looked decapitated or anything like that,” Mellon said. “Nobody was bleeding, nobody was decapitated. It looks like they ate something.”

Mellon had hoped necropsy examinations would be performed to determine the cause or causes of the deaths.

“I hope there’s some kind of answer,” Mellon said.

Meanwhile, Bart Miller, owner of SoCal Kite Surfing, with his team of instructors, provides daily kite sailing lessons on the beach at the Claremont Avenue launch ramp.

Asked if there’s a problem with birds flying into the kites’ wires, Miller said, “no.”

“I’ve never seen that before,” he said. “I’ve been here every day for 11 years.”

He said perhaps it could happen to one bird but not 11 in one day. And he’s not sure soaring into a wire would cause the bird to die.

“I haven’t really heard of that happening,” he said. “It would be very rare. I think the birds see us coming.”

If that were to come about, “You would know because it would make your kite crash immediately,” he said.

Miller said initially that the bird deaths sounded like a poisoning. However, after checking the local conditions on his phone for the Sunday and Monday in question, he pointed out that a major heatwave took place with no wind.

In fact, he canceled his kite surfing classes for that Monday because of the weather.

Miller suspects the extreme heat may have played a role in the birds dying.


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