Rescued Pelican Taught How to Fly and Documented on Camera

What happens when you find a young pelican, all alone, washed up on a beach after a storm? You teach him to fly and put a small camera on his beak, of course:

This Great White Pelican, or “Big Bird” as the staff at Greystoke Mahale Park affectionately named him, was only about three months old when he paddled ashore from Lake Tanganyika following a large storm.  Initially, the staff and guests on the beach were very puzzled by Big Bird’s sudden appearance, because the nearest known flock of  Great White Pelicans is about 150 kilometers away in Katavi National Park.  According to the Greystoke Mahale’s blog, it is believed that Big Bird may have been sucked up into a cumulonimbus storm cell which relocated him on the lake.

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Look closely and you can see the GoPro camera attached to Big Bird’s beak.

The staff at the park said they asked for permission from the park authority, Tanapa, to feed Big Bird fish since he was unable to fish by himself. The Great White Pelican, unlike the Brown Pelican, do not dive for fish individually. Instead, they work together to corral the fish into a single area, then scoop them up into the large, stretchy pouches below their bills.

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Not only could Big Bird not fish for himself, but the Greystone Mahale staff found he couldn’t fly, either.

“We aren’t sure how much how much flying he may have already done before arriving here, but he was pretty shaky in his next attempts on the beach.”

The staff taught Big Bird how to fly by running up and down the beach and flapping their arms to simulate flying. He curiously watched them before giving it a try for himself.

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While the GoPro video of Big Bird shows him gliding smoothly through the air, one staff member says his first flight attempts were a bit rocky.

“[His first flight] was short and uncontrolled and we would look away when he was landing, as he seemed to not distinguish between ground and air speed–coming in way too fast and endangering our beach furniture.”

Judging by Big Bird’s footage, as well as one Striated Caracara’s documentation, it turns out that birds are natural videographers.

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3 Comments

  1. Titilola Popoola says:

    Absolutely amazing to be a witness to this. Very touching

  2. Crunk says:

    Does the bird come back?

  3. Gayle A Brandt says:

    that was incredible to watch! It must have been lots of fun teaching him how to fly.

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