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The Pelican - a Curious Bird

Updated on June 10, 2015

The pelican

Do you think pelicans smile? I certainly do. I think that they are the cheeriest of birds.

Every time I see one, it seems to have a grin on its face. Maybe it's just me but they do seem to be happy creatures.

Have you ever seen them flying in formation? It's an amazing sight. They like to hang out together - in fact, they symbolize family and caring in some societies and cultures.Here in Florida when there's an air show, they seem to know it and they wait for a break in the airplane activities. And then they fly over in a perfect v formation. Never mind the professional aerobatic teams with their elaborate aircraft - these strange but companionable birds get the biggest cheers every time.

See some of my favorite photographs in the gallery below and continue to scroll down for interesting info about these birds - past and present.

All photographs copyright Andy Royston and used with written permission.

Curious indeed

My dad used to recite this to me when I was a little girl. There are lots of versions around but of course, this is the very best because my dad taught it to me :)

At that time,I had never seen an actual pelican in real life.I'd only seen them in books and on the television. Now that I live in Florida, they are a regular sight, especially when seen from the beach flying over the ocean as they watch for fish for dinner.


The photographs below were taken in South Florida by Andy Royston using an iPhone.


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Pelican at restFlying over the wavesPelicans are companionable creatures.Looking for food.Serenity on the seaGoing in to dive
Pelican at rest
Pelican at rest | Source
Flying over the waves
Flying over the waves
Pelicans are companionable creatures.
Pelicans are companionable creatures.
Looking for food.
Looking for food.
Serenity on the sea
Serenity on the sea
Going in to dive
Going in to dive

Did you know? - Facts and trivia

  • The state of Louisiana is known as the Pelican State and the bird is featured on the state flag
  • The famous limerick my dad used to recite to me was written in 1910 by Dixon Lanier Merritt
  • Legend has it (and it is only legend) that the females of the species will feed their young on their own blood if no other food is available. This led to the female being symbolic of Jesus Christ and the Crucifixion
  • For the same reason, they are said to represent charity.
  • Carl Jung had theories about their symbolism in dreams, saying that it was indicative of realization. Dreaming about these creatures, he believed, means that new ideas will come along bringing valuable insights to the dreamer
  • Queen Elizabeth the first of England adopted the the bird as her own symbol as she was the protector of the faith; the head of the Church of England
  • The first edition of the King James Bible, dating from 1611, depicts a female pelicana feeding her chicks on the title page
  • El pelicano is featured on the logo of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, designed by Andy Royston.
  • All birds symbolize freedom. For many years mankind has envied their ability to soar effortlessly into the skies. Who knows where they will go? Mankind has long envied this freedom and spontaneity
  • Brown varieties, the ones found in Florida, are the only one of the species that swoops down from the sky and dives for fish. Other species dive from the surface of the water
  • Like penguins, these birds incubate their eggs with their feet
  • Despite my dad's version of the limerick (above) the bird doesn't store food in its beak. Once it has caught a fish, it squeezes out the water using its beak and then swallows the fish whole

Queen Elizabeth and symbolism


You can see Queen Elizabeth's silver pendant just above her hand in this painting by Nicholas Hilliard painted in approximately 1573.

Image from Wikipedia Commons.

King James Bible

Look at the bottom of this title plate and you'll see an image of the female of the species feeding her young.Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Further reading

If you want to know more about these amazing creatures there's a lot of information out there. Here are a few off the very best.


Because of the symbolism of the this bird, depictions of them have been widely used in jewelry. See 'did you know' above. This jewelry is a great and meaningful gift.

The choice is quite astonishing. This shows just how popular this symbolism is and how suitable they are for gifts.

Photography credits

All photographs by Andy Royston and used with written permission.

© 2013 Jackie Jackson

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