Pelicans often spotted in Tahoe/Truckee; one grounded by weather

Ashleigh Goodwin / Tahoe Daily Tribune
Pelican on Alameda Avenue just after a snow storm.
Provided/Toogee Sielsch

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A South Lake Tahoe neighborhood received an unexpected guest on Wednesday due to the storm.

In the early afternoon a pelican was taken to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care from Alameda Avenue, where witnesses said it hit a power line before falling to the ground.

One bystander called local resident and animal advocate Toogee Sielsch, who helped get the large aquatic bird to safety. 

Greg Erfani with Lake Tahoe WildLife Care said the bird had been received but was unable to provide any details until the vet completes their report.

“There were no signs of any wounds to it at all but it was easy to grab,” Sielsch said, and said he secured the feet first and then the wings, “those wings are big, they’ll knock you out.”

“Sounds like he got grounded by the weather,” said Will Richardson, co-founder and executive director Tahoe Institute for Natural Science, and added that while it is early for migration it’s not entirely unusual.

“The largest colonies of breeding pelicans in the US nest at Pyramid Lake for the mating season which he said is from April to early Summer,” Richardson said and added due to the sheer numbers of pelicans versus fish population at Pyramid Lake the birds have to seek out other resources.  

“They have to go on shopping runs basically, little fishing trips across the broader region. In Truckee we will see Pelicans all the time, most of them follow the Interstate 80 corridor mainly,” Richardson said.

Pelican in a large dog crate for transport to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care.
Provided/Toogee Sielsch

He added, “In the Tahoe Basin itself we don’t see as many that touch down because the lake is so deep that the fish are inaccessible to the way these birds typically hunt.”

Pelicans work in groups sometimes to herd the fish to more shallow areas and then “stab at them,” Richardson added.

While seemingly out of place, Erfani said Pelicans can sometimes be pushed off course, and when they do, LTWC is happy to help them.

“The prognosis looks good,” Erfani said. “We get pelicans every once in a while when the storms blow them off course.”

Ashleigh Goodwin is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at

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