Monday, March 26, 2012

Hank The Pelican



Hello from San Diego! As you read this I'm over at the San Diego Zoo, getting dosed with my first round of trainings for my new job. Hopefully all will go smoothly, and I'll be able to get into the zoo for free when that is all said and done with.

Since I went to Lake Merritt over and over and over again this winter, I got to the point where I began to recognize individual birds...the one Ring-necked Duck, the Redhead with too much white, the Black-crowned Night-Heron with the droopy wing, the crusty-looking Great Egret, the teenage Barrow's Goldneye, the celebrity Tufted Duck. But the bird that even nonbirders knew was Hank, the American White Pelican.


Hank is a dapper bird. Look at the size of her....her....horn? What is the name of that thing anyway? Well, you know what I mean, that thing is huge.


Pterosaur Face.

I had been seeing Hank there for years, but I just recently learned her story, that her name was Hank, and that he was a she.

According to a passerby (and the internet), Hank was found with a janky wing in Oregon, back in 2004. After it was determined she would not be able to fly again, she wound up in Oakland, of all places, at Lake Merritt's Rotary Nature Center. Every day, for the past 8 years, she spends her time at the nature center (where she is fed delicious fish) and the small islands just offshore. Since she is such a stud, she now attracts free-flying white pelicans to the lake every year to hang out with him, which apparently never happened before her arrival.

On my last day at Lake Merritt, they had drained the scum ponds at the nature center and were filling them with clean water. Hank got stoked, and started doing all kinds of weird stuff.




If you had seen how nasty that water usually is, you would want to dunk your head in there too.

Although you would be considered whorish to count Hank on any kind of official list, she still gets cred from her less disabled pelican relatives and probably spends inordinate amounts of time wishing she could fly someplace else more suited to copulating with a female. At least she has the distinction of being the biggest damn bird on the lake, and makes passing children cower in fear...a toddler could fit in her throat pouch, no problem.



Nom nom nom nom nom.


People don't usually think of pelicans as being crested birds. Now, people will know better.


I am not used to having such giant birds cause tsunamis a few feet in front of me, even if they are only half-wild. I can't imagine what holding one of these birds is like...prolly a mixture of sheer terror and blood.


Hank can easily pass for a wild bird when she wants to. Don't forget to say "hi" to her if you find yourself at the lake.

17 comments:

  1. It sure looks like Hank was feeling frisky when you photographed him. I haven't seen any of the American White Pelicans here close up so I don't know if they are groing their carbuncles yet.

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  2. Good grief he's like Rocky in Rocky III (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0qVUn4797g&feature=related)
    Pretty awesome bird.

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    1. Rocky wouldve looked better with a carbuncle.

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  3. OMG YUM re: his AMAZING colors. Holy crap. That last shot is STUNNING! I'm a sucker for orange/yellow.

    I bet you're right re: trying to hold one. I chatted w/ a wildlife rescue person and she said pelicans (probably brown) were highly variable re: personality. She had one that she was caring for who's life wish was to smack the hell out of her any chance he could get. Others were mild, afraid, indifferent, all variable.

    Ooh, I like how Mia slipped in the name of the bump w/o saying "you dork, you don't know what that is??" NICE.

    Seeing a group of white pelicans threading circle overhead is one of the great joys of life.

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    1. My new coworker today mentioned he knew of someone who actually died from a pelican injury...

      Yeah, Mia totally got +2 birder points today...

      Agreed on the White Pelican flocks...they are never something you expect to see wheeling around when you look up.

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  4. I absolutely love this post. Thanks for capturing Hank in his head-dunking bliss. I really miss him and all of the feathered people at Lake Merritt. It was one of my regular hangouts back home, and I can't wait to be back someday. btw, you're right about Lake Merritt affording these intimate associations with the regulars.

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    1. Thanks Ingrid. Hopefully he will be there many more years!

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  5. And here I thought that thing on his schnoz was called the "Hey hey baby I'm a stud and mine is bigger" thing. Carbunckle schamrbunkle.

    Love the 'fro look on Hank, too.

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    1. He's got it all...weird crest, rhino horn with a funny name...

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  6. Hank is really cool. Great photos. I'd love to get a chance to see him in person some day.

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    1. Thanks Alex...I have Hank to thank for the epic poses.

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  7. Sweet photos. Kind of a disappointing name for such a dapper fellow though.

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  8. Hank is awesome! And the word carbuncle is even more awesome. Love the pics!

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  9. You got some great behavioral shots of him. It must have been watching him play. What a beautiful bird!

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  10. Cool post, I'd been wondering about that pelican with the broken wing! Nice to hear the backstory.
    I'm curious - I noticed that you call Hank "she" - do you know that Hank is female?

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    1. Yeah Hank is a girl. Female pelicans are smaller than males, so when Hank has a male visitor in the area its easy to see the size difference.

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