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Mon, Jun 26, 2006

If You Fly Near An Ocean... Watch For Drunk Pelicans

As If Pilots Didn't Have Enough To Worry About...

If you fly out of a seaside airport, you'd best be on the lookout for some nefarious ne'er-do-wells. They're big, they have a taste for fish... and they may be drunk. They're pelicans... and four of the large birds are in custody in Southern California on suspicion of being drunk, after one of them flew into a car's windshield as three of its similarly addled brethren looked on.

Authorities say all four of the California brown pelicans were intoxicated -- not on beer, but fermented algae.
Turns out when certain types of ocean algae are eaten, they can produce a condition called domoic acid poisoning.

Fortunately for the pickled pelicans, they're all recovering -- even the unlucky bird that hit the car is recuperationg from a broken toe, and a gash in its pouch -- but while we may approach the issue with some humor, domoic acid poisoning can be a serious problem for all concerned.

After all, if an intoxicated bird can hit a car... it can also strike an aircraft inflight.

The problem isn't rare, either... as shellfish tainted with domoic acid is thought to be the culprit behind a 1961 attack of seabirds on people and cars in the oceanside town of Capitola, California... a scene that later inspired Alfred Hitchcock to make the classic horror movie, "The Birds."

FMI: http://seafood.ucdavis.edu/Pubs/natural.htm

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