Pelican petting in St James’ Park

I was amazed to come across these scenes in St James’ Park, but  apparently it’s quite common.  Currently there are three resident pelicans, happily at ease with the visitors who take a keen interest in them.    Eastern White pelicans were introduced to the Park as far back as 1664 when the Russian Ambassador at the time presented some of the birds to King Charles II to add to his stock of game birds.

Drawing in the crowds, but isn’t it amazing that wild creatures become tolerant of being subjected to contact handling?!

25 thoughts on “Pelican petting in St James’ Park

    1. Yes, the children thought it fun… though i was concerned that the teenagers were getting a bit out of hand and too boisterous. It’s patience must have worn out, as it abruptly took to water and sailed off across the lake.

    1. Impressive indeed! Amazingly built for purpose and so well designed for aquatic life. Have some shots of the same species, but in the wilds in Namibia way in the distance. Getting so close to a tame species was just awe-inspiring!

    1. Hi Gilly, too right – besides it sheer size its beak has a mean looking mandibular nail. I once helped catch an injured cormorant and know what kind of damage hooked beaks can cause, so was on tenterhooks when i watched the children petting this feathered giant…. but it appeared quite content to be touched?! Maybe because they are resident and fed daily they’ve become habituated to people and interaction stems from positive / reward reinforcement? Even though there appears to be mutual benefit, I’m still very adamantly against people touching wild creatures!

  1. Holy cow – what a huge bird! I’m very jealous, would love to be able to see such a magnificent creature in person!

    1. Isn’t it impressive! Second largest in wingspan to the Great Albatross – from 7 – 11.8′ across. Must admit to being concerned about the bird being manhandled, but the gent on the bench turned out to be a sort of guardian, watching that things didn’t get out of hand.

  2. Astonishing! I agree with you, though, about being “adamantly against people touching wild creatures” – for the protection of both species! Still, this is amazing, and I certainly understand the impulse people feel to draw close to a wild creature and touch it. I just love that first photo of the pelican and the man sharing a bench.

  3. I truly thought the first image was a statue! I scrolled down and had to scroll back up and look again! Those pelicans are giants!
    I’ve been ‘snipped’by a wounded frigate before, and agree about being wary of can-opener beaks! YOW!

      1. a friend stopped by this afternoon, and we spent more time watching the pelicans/frigates and kingfishers more than anything else. one pelican and one kingfisher seemed to be having a unique relationship, though i never figured out what they were doing.. it’s almost as if the pelican was wistful to be like a kingfisher.. the pelican flop flop flopped in the water; the kingfisher hovered until dive bombing nearby, and then he’s fly away.. the pelican would them take flight and make a circle near the kingfisher and then return to the original spot.. it’s like they were playing baseball or something!

        too bad i didn’t record it on camera!

        thanks for listening!


      2. Entertaining creatures .. how about the tag “goofing around’? Once watched a gaggle of juvenile pelicans tossing an aerosol can into the air, then scrumming in a great mass of white feathers to be the next to throw it up! Seem quite a sporting species.

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