Orphaned Pelican Learns To Fly With Some Human Help


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About four months ago, guests lunching on the pristine white sand beaches outside Greystoke Mahale, a luxury wildlife camp located on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Africa, were treated to an unusual sight - A Great White Pelican emerging from the waters and waddling towards them.

While it looked big, upon closer examination, the lodge officials realized that he was only about three months old and injured! They decided to take the little baby in and nurse it back to health. However a few weeks later when the fully recovered bird made no attempt to leave, the camp staff realized that 'Big Bird' as they called him had either never learnt or forgotten how to fly.

So the staff members decided to teach him what to do, by enthusiastically flapping their arms and running up and down the beach. It took a few weeks, but the baby bird finally got the hang of it and recently decided to show humans what a smooth flight really looks like. Fortunately, the staff members had affixed a tiny GoPro camera on Big Bird's head so that his historic inaugural flight could be recorded. According to the pelican's 'flight trainers', Big Bird is still a little shaky especially during landings, something they are trying to overcome with daily practice.

Besides being able to fly, Big Bird also has to learn how to fend for himself. This may prove to be a little difficult given that Great White Pelicans do not dive for fish. Instead they first corral or trap their prey into a small area with the help of other pelicans, and then scoop them up into their large pouches. Given that Big Bird does not have the support of his fellow mates, means he will have to fish alone, which may be a problem. Fortunately, the park officials are happy to feed their 'pet' who has become a worldwide celebrity ever since GoPro decided that the video he recorded was good enough to be used as an advertisement for the camera!

While the lodge staff is not completely sure, they believe that the pelican was separated from his flock after being sucked into a cloud during one of the frequent storms on the lake. They also believe that Big Bird is part of the flock of Great White Pelicans that reside at Katavi National Park about 150 km from Greystoke Mahale. Hopefully, he will be able to reunite with them some day.

With wingspans that measures between 7.41 to 11.81 feet, male Great White Pelicans are amongst the largest of all flying birds on Earth. Endemic to Asia, Southeastern Europe and Africa, they reside in and around warm shallow tropical waters. Though their diet primarily comprises of large fish, the birds are known to be opportunistic foragers and have often been seen stealing chicks of other birds, especially to feed their young ones.

Resources: nomad-tanzania.com, telegraph.co.uk, wikipedia.org

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