Inside A Pelican’s Beak

Pelican with speech bubble that reads 'Yes, I can hold in my beak enough food for a week.' and explanation of what it feels like inside a pelican's beak

Ever wondered what it is like inside a pelican’s beak? The beak of a pelican is big, of that there is no doubt. But what does it feel like?

Back in May 2016, Tamara and I visited Edinburgh Zoo, where we watched the pelicans. We had been many times before, but this time we noticed that the pelicans were close by a wire fence, clustered together.

They have a large, pond and the banks of the pond on which to walk about, and they seemed happy in their environment. I know some people have a thing about zoos, and think they are cruel.

Some zoos do have cramped quarters, and of course freedom is not to be dismissed.

But zoos worldwide do some of the most important conservation work, so except where animals are obviously unhappy, I am not going to criticise zoos.

Of course, if all animals and birds were in zoos that would be a sad day for mankind. I recall seeing pelicans flying overhead off the coast of northern California.

It was a magnificent, almost prehistoric sight, and I guess that the pelicans in Edinburgh Zoo would be happy to join them. But still, on balance, zoos do good work.

Pelicans Are Gregarious

Pelicans are gregarious, and as soon as one of them found something interesting to investigate on land, the others would follow and congregate and huddle close to one another.

The pelicans were so friendly that two of them reached up to say hello to us.

And Tamara and I had the experience of holding out our hands and finding them inside a pelican’s beak.

Inside A Pelican’s Beak

When the pelican closed its beak on my hand, the upper beak felt like being tapped gently with a thin piece of lightweight wood. Being inside a pelican’s beak was a pleasant experience, the experience of being investigated delicately by a large bird.

When the pelican closed its beak around my hand, the edge of the beak rasped against my hand as though with very tiny teeth. They were not sharp – just a faint rasp as they closed around my hand.

It was easy to understand that the tiny teeth are for draining water from its throat pouch when the pelican folds its wings, dives into the water, and rises to the surface with fish in its beak.

Because the lower beak is stretchy and translucent, light shines through it and illuminates the inside. Tamara noticed this, and soon we both experienced seeing all the way down the pelican’s throat into its gullet.

Inside the beak of a pelican is like a highway illuminated by yellow light.

Dixon Lanier Merritt’s Limerick

Here’s Dixon Lanier Merritt’s limerick that, with several variations over the years, often springs to mind when discussing or thinking about pelicans:

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

A wonderful bird is the pelican
Its beak can hold more than its belly can
It can hold in its beak
Enough food for a week
A wonderful bird is the pelican

It is, of course, to the words of the well-known verse that the pelican in our greeting card is referring when it says  ‘Yes, I can hold in my beak enough food for a week.’

The Pelican Greeting Card

To go to the product page for the pelican greeting card, click Inside A Pelican’s Beak, or click the image at the top of this post. Either way will take you there.

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