Monday, February 20, 2006



I was standing on the fishing pier (old A1A bridge remnant) not long ago, taking pix of people luckier than me...they were fishing, when I noticed a Brown Pelican giving me the eye.

That's pretty normal, pier pelicans are the worst form of street hustler. Catch a fish, they are right there with the poor pitiful me look. Reach in the bucket for a piece of fishy bait...same thing. Occasionally, they get a little pushy and wave that hooked bill and flap that 6 foot wingspan.

This guy was more introspective and as I got closer for a photo, he spoke.
"That's close enough buddy", he blinked and turned to face me.

Now, I've had these animal to human conversations before, so I took it in stride. What was different this time was the fact that his "lips" didn't move when he "talked".

"Dude, are you telepathic?" I thought.

"We prefer to call it pelicanepathic" He preened a little.

Now this was good, very good. Usually I try to be away from people when discoursing with animals...and especially with plants or fungi, because of the "psycho maniac nutcase" label which I am trying to avoid. Here, I could have a "discussion" covertly in public.

I tried some polite chit chat thoughts, " So how's it going?"

" Not too bad, the spring run of mullet hasn't begun yet, but these pier fishers toss me the pinfish and small stuff. It's nice not to work so hard for a change."

"You're lookin' kind of "fluffy", are you sure that's good for you? Aren't you worried about losing your skills or getting a little out of shape?"

"A little, but the pier is empty often, so I still work for a living...excuse me just a minute." The man nearby was unhooking a small grunt and the pelican opened his bill to catch the proffered fish. It disappeared with a swallow.

"So is it hard catching fish the way you do, spotting them from above and dropping out of the sky?" I pretended to fiddle with the camera as a lady nearby was staring at the bird and I. Unfortunately, I could not tell what she was thinking. I just hoped it didn't start with "psycho, nutcase..."

The pelican drew me back, "Like most things, it looks tough from the outside, and like most things it takes some practice to be good at it. From above, the fish are easier to see..."

"Like when I bungee a step ladder in my Carolina Skiff so I can get higher to see fish cruising the flats." I interjected.

" Yes, now try not to interrupt." He fixed me with a pelican glare. "As I was saying, the fish can be seen easier..."

"What about their countershading?" I thought blurted. "'s harder to control thoughts than tongue..."

"Yes, well countershading of course is a defense many fish have evolved that makes my job more difficult in deep water. Having a dark top half helps them blend in with the darker, deep water background..."

"...and the light underside protects them from fishy predators looking up into the bright surface background...oops, dang, this pelicanepathy is hard to get used to." I stared at my feet.

"Well, some master it faster than others, that's for sure." He had a smirk on his bill now. How did he do that? He continued, "Countershading is an excellent defense true, but it has flaws and it can be used offensively too. Have you noticed my countershading?"

"Yes, I, I suppose it helps you be less obvious to a fish looking up into the brightness, what about this flaw of countershading?"

He was stroking his bill near his tail now and I wasn't sure if I should be looking or not. He sensed my awkwardness.

"My oil glands are back there, I have to stay waterproof you know." He raised a wing and rubbed his oily bill over it. "The wonderful flaw in countershading occurs over shallow light colored sea bottom like at the beach or over the tidal flats. Sure, the fish can adjust their pigment some, but overall, their darker backs stand out like grapes in chicken salad."

"Man, I hate that when people mess up good chicken salad with grapes or nuts... hey wait a minute. You eat chicken salad?"

"They don't toss me just fish you know, I get left over lunch scraps too."

"That can't be good for you."

"And that Snicker's bar you are eating? Is that good for you?"

"Touchet" I looked at my watch. "Well, I've gotta be going...just one more thing."


"Has anyone ever told you that you really look like a pteradactyl?"

"Oh, if I had a mullet for everytime I've heard that one..."

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roger said...

don't try that with a crow. they're all about puns. obscene puns. but they are funny.

Floridacracker said...

I had heard that about crows. The cardinal told me.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

Bravo, FC. You are definitely a psycho maniac nutcase, but that's what we love about you. I had no idea that pelicans were such good conversationalists, but that's why I've come to rely on blogs for all of my facts. (Are you reading "Ishmael" by any chance? If not, you might want to!)

Wayne said...

Pelicans make it all worthwhile, even the psycho maniac nutcases! I have to admit, FC's bird is bigger than mine.

I love the first Jurassic Park, and maybe mostly for the final shot of the pelicans flying in formation as our heroes are evacuating the island.

Floridacracker said...

Pelicans are a little full of themselves, but they are fun to chat with. I've heard you guys discussing Ishmael...courtesy of Deb's site and yours I believe. At first, I thought you guys were scifi nerds like me and were discussing "The Wind Whales Of Ishmael" by Phillip Jose Farmer. It's a sequel to Moby Dick.
Your Ishmael book does sound interesting from what I have gleaned. I may try it.

That ending was perfect. It stays with me.
Yeah, mine's bigger, but it can hang upside down from a tree trunk like your little nuthatch.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

I had that same conversation with an osprey, except for the part about the pteradactyl. The osprey thought I looked like a dodo.

doubleknot said...

Conversations with a pelican - good thing you two used pelicanepathic to communicate or you may have had people hurrying away from you.
Well thanks to the pelican I have learned another tidbit of info about fish. As I do most of my fishing from shore the counter shading doesn't help but nice to know.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Pelicanepathy?? Oh...That was cute.

I was reading your blog because it was very informative...but now I find out the best part...That you are very funny and imaginative.
I like that...We all need a few laughs and we secretly all are, psycho maniac nutcases.

kevin said...

I came across a little pelcian tivia (maybe not to the pelicans). Most don't die from old age but rather starvation. It seems the impact from diving on fish eventually makes them blind. Once they are blind they can't hunt. The birds that hang around the piers and docks waiting for a hand out are only prolonging their lives. It is amazing how much they can swallow. I've fed them them carcass of a whole school dolphin.

I love them watching cruise down the beach in their 'V' formations. Sometimes it looks like their wingtips will touch the water they are so low.

kevin said...

Oh yeah, and mostly what they say to me is "Are you going to eat that?"

Deb said...

I finished Ishmael about ten minutes before I came on here, so I was expecting the pelican maybe to engage you in a discourse on human society. However, I was not disappointed!

Tim Rice said...

I love your literary creativeness with the pelican. I think I'll have check out your blog more often.

Floridacracker said...

Couldn't he see you weren't extinct?

Countershading doesn't help avoid a tastey baited hook :)

It's the keeping it a secret part that's tough sometimes :)

So there, I learned something today. Those low altitude flights are on a cushion of air between the bird and the water. It does seem like they can go forever."Are you going to eat that?" is what Junior usually says to me.

Pelicans seem to be pretty apolitical, not like those hothead Herons.

P.S. ...up above, I meant CAN'T hang upside down, not can. OOPS.

Floridacracker said...

Hey, welcome aboard.

vicki said...

Sorry FC, I can't help it:

A wonderful bird is the pelican
His bill can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for for a week
Don't ask me how the hell he can.

I love me a pelican!

Floridacracker said...

I knew somebody was going to do that! :)

Hick said...

I was by here the other day and I read this but I didn't have time to comment.

I sure learned a lot about pelicans. No wonder your students like you.

Floridacracker said...

OOps, missed seeing your comment. Glad you have been pelicanized.