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Last Updated: Saturday January 10 2009 12:21 GMT

Mystery illness hits pelicans

Pelicans

Wildlife experts are trying to figure out why hundreds of pelicans are becoming ill in America.

A record number of dead or very poorly birds have been spotted along the California coastline.

Rescue workers are doing their best to help the brown pelicans, but what's making them ill is a mystery.

They are managing to save the sick pelicans but at a cost of at least $500 (350) each.

Some have been found far from their seaside homes on roads, fields and gardens.

Brown pelicans in America
Brown pelicans in America
Experts are waiting for blood tests to see if this shows what exactly is making the birds ill.

The sick birds are thin, seem confused and lost, and have discoloured pouches and feet.

The California brown pelican nearly became extinct in the 1960s and 1970s because a very harmful pesticide got into their food.

The species started to recover in 1972 when the pesticide DDT was banned in the United States.