Personification of a Pelican

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

We have been camped in San Roque for just over 5 days now and the local birds are starting to figure us out. The seagulls especially have been coming to check out the compost scraps that we produce every time we make a meal – orange and lime peels, onion skins, papaya seeds, egg shells. There is a small bird that visits regularly, perching in the top branches of the one tree in our camp to sing loudly. Today, a pelican stopped by.

It was a young one, at least we think so because of its curiosity and lack of bright white head feathers that the older birds carry. The pelican flew in casually, landing on the beach about 30 feet from the kitchen area. With small, somewhat wobbly steps it made its way closer to the group moving not in a direct line but rather in a bit of a waivery zig-zag. By this point, just about everyone in our crew was part of the audience and Nick and Tom were taking photos.

The pelican was in no hurry and continued its steady, awkward march around our camp, but it was no longer just a random bird. Now sporting a nickname – Rufus – the pelican had suddenly morphed into a “he” with all sorts of possible motivations for coming to our camp. Was he hungry? Was he sick or hurt in some way? Maybe he wanted a hug or a pat, just a little attention is all. Or what if he was out to get us, either by directing an individual assault on us or by acting as a decoy so the other sea birds might be able to catch us off guard and make off with lunch? Through all the speculation, the pelican offered no clear explanation for exactly why it was there.

When the big bird finally flew off, unprovoked, we turned our attention back to lunch, undisturbed by any plotting gulls. We’ll likely never have an answer as to why that pelican came to hang out for a little while, but it is interesting to note that each of the reasons offered from the group, either serious or in jest, made the bird into a distinctly human creature. Human in motivation, anyway. Perhaps pelicans have reasons for living that are beyond our human understanding and whether they do seek to connect with us or not will remain a beautiful mystery.

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