“I left home early in the morning and what a sight!” Vladimir Pyagin, a resident of the small village of Suslovo in the Altai region, told Reuters.
“When I got closer, I immediately realised they were pelicans… Everybody in the village started trying to catch them to save the exhausted birds from the dogs.”
Residents managed to capture four of the exotic birds, who have been moved to a zoo in the regional capital of Barnaul, 200 km (120 miles) northeast of the village.
The remaining three of the addled flock took flight.
Russia’s Bird Conservation Union said the birds were migrating back to their native Africa from neighboring Kazakhstan.
“This is a unique case. Some reports suggest pelicans last flew here over 100 years ago,” said union head Alexei Ebel.
Russia, famed for its freezing temperatures, is breaking records for abnormally warm November weather with temperatures in Altai hovering around 5 degrees Celsius (41 Fahrenheit). In other parts of the country, there have been reports of bears and hedgehogs who had delayed hibernation.
The Barnaul zoo director said the pelicans would remain in the zoo out of fear the birds would not survive the upcoming winter.
“We’re not yet talking about letting the pelicans go free… We have already prepared a heated aviary for them and in the spring we’ll build a pond,” he said.
He added that the zoo would seek advice on how to care for their “unusual guests” from the Moscow City Zoo, but in the meantime the birds were being treated to an expensive diet of pike, perch and carp.
Barely one year old, the lost pelicans still sport fledgling grey feathers. Only later will their back plumage turn into their more famous pink hues.
“They just lost their way and went in exactly the opposite direction: Instead of Africa they somehow chose the Altai region.”