Wyld Kingdom: pelicans

‘I am like a pelican of the wilderness’ (Psalms, 102:6). The pelican is a bird of Egypt, living in the wilderness of the River Nile, from which it gets its name. For Egypt is known as Canopos.

It is devoted to its young. When it gives birth and the young begin to grow, they strike their parents in the face. But their parents, striking back, kill them. On the third day, however, the mother-bird, with a blow to her flank, opens up her side and lies on her young and lets her blood pour over the bodies of the dead, and so raises them from the dead.

A Pelican Feeding her Young

It is also a characteristic of this bird, they say, that it always suffers from thinness, and that whatever it swallows, it digests immediately, because its stomach has no separate pocket in which to retain food. Food does not fatten its body, therefore, but only sustains it and gives it strength. Indeed, the life of a hermit is modelled on the pelican, in that he lives on bread but does not seek to fill his stomach; he does not live to eat but eats to live.

Strange yet True.

A Pelican Feeding her Young, after 1277, Franco-Flemish
Digital images courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program
Text on this page from translation of Aberdeen Bestiary, copyright 1995, Aberdeen University

~ this page pub. 06 April 2014 ~
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