I meet two friendly pelicans at the waterfront

05 April 2013

“Yikes! What are those huge birds?!” I exclaimed, almost jumping out of Reggie’s hand in fright. She clasped me more firmly, as we took a closer look – from a safe distance.

We had been leisurely ambling around the Walvis Bay waterfront, strolling towards the Two Oceans Restaurant at the end, when I’d suddenly noticed two very large birds with huge beaks sitting side-by-side ontop of a wooden platform.

Two huge pelicans are sitting on the roof of a large wooden pen.
Two Great White Pelicans are sitting on the roof of a large wooden pen.

Those birds really were very big. And their huge beaks with the odd pouches hanging beneath looked extremely vicious and pointy. I wasn’t taking any chances.

“Flat Kathy, those are Great White Pelicans,” Reggie said. “They mainly eat fish, but also crustaceans and tadpoles, and other birds’ eggs if there’s not enough fish. You’ll be relieved to know that they don’t eat humans.” She chuckled.

They are looked after by the Pelican Rehabilitation Project
These penguins are looked after by the Pelican Rehabilitation Project

The wooden platform on which the two birds were perched, formed the roof of a rather large wooden pen, with a sign on the wall identifying this as a pelican rehabilitation project. It said:

“During breeding season, many pelicans rear their young on the Guano Platform. Chicks often fall off the platform and are washed up on the beach, where they are usually picked up by members of the public and brought to us. Once they are fully fledged, we encourage them to fend for themselves.” (More info here and here)

Look at those wings! These are BIG birds.
Look at those wings! These are BIG birds.

“Don’t go so close,” I chided her. “They’ll bite me!”

“Don’t be such a ninny, Flat Kathy,” said Richard, as Reggie obediently backed away from the birds. “Here, give me the camera, and I will take some photos. Reggie – move closer to the birds.”

“Umm…. oh dear oh dear oh dear…” I began stammering, closing my eyes in fear, as we cautiously sidled up to the two pelicans.

Richard was gesticulating, “Closer, get closer… Come on, I can’t get you into the frame otherwise.”

They very kindly agree to pose for a photograph with me
They very kindly agree to pose for a photograph with me

“They’re used to humans, Flat Kathy,” explained Aunty Lissi soothingly, noticing that I was turning a bit pale. “Don’t worry. They associate humans with food, and they’re not going to attack you. Mind you, I wouldn’t try to pet them…”

“See, they’re ignoring us,” added Reggie, watching the two pelicans preening their feathers. “Open your eyes, Flat Kathy, and just look at them. We’re not going to go any closer; I don’t want to annoy them or scare them away. But just look at how delicately they use the tips of their beaks to clean between their feathers. Isn’t it amazing?”

“Uh-hum,” I mumbled, working up the courage to look. She was right, it was amazing what delicate little movements they could make with those huuuuge beaks, separating the feathers and cleaning them. Wow.

I could have watched them for hours, but all too soon it was time to continue with our day-drive and to return back to Swakopmund.

I am fascinated by the delicacy with which they preen their feathers with their long beaks.
I am fascinated by the delicacy with which they preen their feathers with their long beaks.

2 thoughts on “I meet two friendly pelicans at the waterfront

  1. I enjoyed your visit with the pelicans. I saw lots of pelicans in the Florida Keys. They were amazing, and certainly had no fear of people. There was a person fishing, where we stopped, and a pelican was sitting right there, waiting …….to be served or to pilfer, I’m not sure. It lost interest in us, as we did not look like a good food source.

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    1. What an interesting story, Bonnie. I haven’t been to the Florida Keys yet – but it sounds like a beautiful place. I’m glad the pelican did not attempt to eat you.

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