There are at least 8 species of Pelican on the Earth today, found on every continent but Antarctica, each one perhaps a minute punchline in Life's Little Joke. You see, the Pelican as we know it has changed so little over the past 30 million years that a fossil found from that long ago was classified in the same family with today's modern Pelicans. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The name comes from the Greek word pelekys which means "axe". The bird with the largest beak in the world has the ability to chop through wood with it. That, and its "trapdoor" ability to catch fish has left the Pelican in evolutionary stasis... merely bored and waiting for it's competition to get better. Or perhaps not bored, but free to pursue other interests.
These birds look like they are made of foam, delicately carved and halfway borrowed from Pterodactyls. They are the original wave riders, surfing in fast, swift groups six inches above breaking waves as the rippling crest rushes air up underneath them, shooting down the beach as fast as A1A traffic. They soar high, fast and beautifully. Once in the air, they rarely flap their wings; they fly with enough innate ease to make any person dream of one day being a bird. Their dive-bombs are kamikaze in nature. They drop full force from the sky like a WWII plane and land with a magnificent splash, usually to surface with a beak-pouch full of movement. White pelicans hunt in groups, herding schools of bait fish into their pouches, fashioned like scoop nets. Once full on fish, they luxuriate in social groups on piers or coastal rocks.
Pelicans as objects are almost exclusively seen in the tropics and coastal environments. Statues adorn dock posts, poolsides and patios. Every roadside souvenir shop in Florida is flooded with tchotchkes of pelicans. They are intricately tied to the coast, they live off of the sea. They are synonymous with Old Florida and the Keys. They catch fish mid-air at piers; unabashedly chase small children holding food; and consistently taunt fishermen--often times stealing their catch as they reel it in. Postcards, posters, T-shirts and diner napkins beam their image to let the tourist know they have arrived at the coast, and remind the locals why they live where they do. My pelican came from an old dock, built in the 50s. It used to perch proudly atop the farthest post out, a tropical gargoyle. Eventually the dock went down, all that salt air just withered the wood after so many years. But my concrete guy is heavier than a boat anchor, and has only suffered a few nicks and dings after a harrowing life halfway out to sea.
|My Dockpost Pelican|