A Funny Old Bird is the Pelican

I remember laughing at this little poem as a child:

A funny old bird is the pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belican.
Food for a week
He can hold in his beak,
But I don’t know how in the helican.

Of course, being a child who wasn’t accustomed to hearing any swear words, I thought it was absolutely scandalous. It still brings a smile to my face.

For our monthly Draw a Bird Day, I chose to do just that. But what sort of bird should I draw? I glanced around and saw a recent issue of Missouri Conservationist magazine. I’d been reading it earlier, and I thought at once of the Wild Guide feature on the American White Pelican, or Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, if you prefer the Latin.

My Funny BirdI had fun drawing this funny old bird, and I learned a bit, too. According to our conservation department, pelicans fly with their heads back on their body, not with their necks extended.

Their breeding territory ranges from eastern Colorado to Canada’s northwest territories and from the Dakotas to northern California. They don’t breed here in Missouri but are transient visitors throughout the year.

The American White Pelican nests in colonies with up to several hundred pairs. They often build these colonies on islands, which helps them avoid predators.

They hunt in shallow waters, dipping their heads under the water to scoop up fish, tadpoles, and other aquatic animals.

In some areas, people once persecuted pelicans and other fish-eating birds because they saw them as competition for game fish.

So now you know a bit about these funny birds, but what about that funny little limerick?  It’s often misattributed to Ogden Nash, and there lots of different versions floating about. It was actually written by Dixon Lanier Merritt, an American poet and humorist.

Happy Draw-A-Bird in November Day




  1. Interesting tidbits in the pelican. Funny how those little guys all know what to do. Think if I drew some pelicans I’d draw them in pelican school learning how to put their head back with their mouth holding a fish. That can’t be easy unless you are a pelican.

    Liked by 1 person

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