It ain’t easy being a brown pelican

Brown pelicans in California nearly died out in the 1960s from the effects of DDT. Since the pesticide was banned, the birds have been recovering and seemed to be out of danger until a recent plague of deaths and illness.

Hundreds of pelicans were reported far from their normal coastal region, sick, disoriented or dead. Among the current suspects are more natural causes: a neurotoxin produced by algae that can be transmitted through the food web and a warm autumn followed by sudden cold, or a combination of the two. Necropsies are expected to narrow the cause in future weeks.