With its distinctive, comical walk, large bill and association with the conservation movement, the pelican has attained iconic status. But the pelican has a chequered history. Classed as `unclean' in the King James Bible, the legend of the compassionate pelican was later appropriated by Christianity to symbolise Christ's sacrifice. This majestic bird, gifted to British royalty in 1664, has been celebrated in art and literature, from Shakespeare's King Lear to the writing of Edward Lear, and is the recipient of three Guinness World Records. The pelican's anatomy has been copied for paper plane construction, aircraft design and in 3d imaging, all while it has fought back from the threat of extinction, habitat destruction and environmental disasters such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Its resilience is as remarkable as its anatomy.
In this must-read book for all bird enthusiasts, Barbara Allen skilfully weaves together wildlife trivia, historical tales and the latest research to provide an engaging account of the cultural and natural history of this emblematic bird.
Barbara Allen is a minister in the Uniting Church in Australia. Her previous books include Pigeon and Animals in Religion, both published by Reaktion Books.