By Becky Oskin, Senior Writer | June 04, 2014 03:12pm ET
An endangered species success story is suffering this year, perhaps because of El Niño.
California brown pelicans almost completely failed to breed at their nesting sites in Mexico this year, surveys have found. Scientists are reluctant to blame any one cause for the drastic decline in fuzzy-headed baby pelicans, but a similar drop in breeding numbers struck during previous El Niño events.
"Over the years, we've seen that during an El Niño, their breeding effort goes way down," said Daniel Anderson, a University of California, Davis wildlife biologist who has monitored California brown pelicans for 46 years. Overfishing of sardines and habitat loss could also be hurting the pelican population, Anderson said.