Pelicans are a genus of large water birds that makes up the family Pelecanidae. They are characterised by a long beak and a large throat pouch used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped up contents before swallowing. They have predominantly pale plumage, the exceptions being the brown and Peruvian pelicans. The bills, pouches and bare facial skin of all species become brightly coloured before the breeding season. The eight living pelican species have a patchy global distribution, ranging latitudinally from the tropics to the temperate zone, though they are absent from interior South America as well as from polar regions and the open ocean.
- 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!
- Dixon Lanier Merritt (1910), authorship noted in L. J. Davenport, John C. Hallm Nature Journal (2010), p. 137; variation reported in print as a miscellany in The Paper and Pulp Makers' Journal: Volume 12 (1912), p. 34. Often quoted as "A funny old bird" and with variations in the last line such as "I don't understand how the helican!"
- Nature's prime favourites were the Pelicans;
High-fed, long-lived, and sociable and free.
- James Montgomery, The Pelican Island (1827), Canto V, line 144.
- Nimbly they seized and secreted their prey,
Alive and wriggling in the elastic net,
Which Nature hung beneath their grasping beaks;
Till, swoln with captures, the unwieldy burden
Clogg'd their slow flight, as heavily to land,
These mighty hunters of the deep return'd.
There on the cragged cliffs they perch'd at ease,
Gorging their hapless victims one by one;
Then full and weary, side by side, they slept,
Till evening roused them to the chase again.
- James Montgomery, The Pelican Island (1827), Canto IV, line 141.
- The nursery of brooding Pelicans,
The dormitory of their dead, had vanish'd,
And all the minor spots of rock and verdure,
The abodes of happy millions, were no more.
- James Montgomery, The Pelican Island (1827), Canto VI, line 74.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 592.
- What, wouldst thou have me turn pelican, and feed thee out of my own vitals?
- William Congreve, Love for Love, Act II, Scene 1.
- By them there sat the loving pelican,
Whose young ones, poison'd by the serpent's sting,
With her own blood to life again doth bring.
- Michael Drayton, Noah's Flood.