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pelican

pelican, common name for a large, gregarious aquatic bird of warm regions, allied to the cormorants and gannets. Pelicans are heavy-bodied, long-necked birds with large, flat bills. They are graceful swimmers and fliers, often seen flying in long lines or circling at great heights. Fish are stored in a deep, expansible pouch below the lower mandible; the young feed from the pouch and throat. The white pelican, Pelecanus onocrotalus, of North America ranges from the NW United States to the Gulf and Florida coasts. It is about 5 ft (152.5 cm) long with a wingspread of 8 to 10 ft (244–300.5 cm). Both sexes have white plumage with black primary wing feathers. The white pelican scoops fish into its pouch as it swims; the smaller brown pelican, P. occidentalis, dives from the air for its prey. The eastern brown pelican of the SE United States and tropical America and the California brown pelican are strictly ocean birds. The spectacled pelican is found in Australia and New Guinea. There are several Old World species. Pelicans are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Pelecaniformes, family Pelecanidae.

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pelican

pelican the pelican is traditionally said to have fed its young on its own blood (see also pelican in her piety below). The story is told by Epiphanius and St Augustine; it appears to be of Egyptian origin, and to have referred originally to a different bird.

Recorded from late Old English, the word comes via late Latin from Greek pelekan, probably based on pelekus ‘axe’, with reference to its bill.
pelican crossing in the UK, a pedestrian crossing with traffic lights operated by pedestrians. The name comes (in the 1960s) from pe(destrian) li(ght) con(trolled), altered to conform with the bird's name.
Pelican flag the state flag of Louisiana, which depicts a pelican.
pelican in her piety in heraldry and Christian iconography, the depiction of a pelican pecking its own breast in order to feed her young, as a symbol of Christ.
Pelican State an informal name for Louisiana.

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pelican

pel·i·can / ˈpelikən/ • n. a large gregarious waterbird (genus Pelecanus, family Pelecanidae) with a long bill, an extensible throat pouch for scooping up fish, and mainly white or gray plumage. Its six species include the white pelican (P. erythrorhynchos) of western and central North America, and the brown pelican (P. occidentalis) of northern and western South America and the southern US. ∎  a heraldic or artistic representation of a pelican, typically depicted pecking its own breast as a symbol of Christ.

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pelican

pelican Any of several species of inland water birds, with a characteristic distensible pouch under its bill for scooping up fish from shallow water. It is usually white or brown and has a long hooked bill, long wings, short thick legs and webbed feet. Length: to 1.8m (6ft). Family Pelecanidae; genus Pelecanus.

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pelican

pelican large gregarious fish-eating water-fowl OE.; †form of alembic; instrument for extracting teeth XVI. OE. pellican, reinforced in ME. by (O)F. pélican — late L. pelicānus — Gr. pelekán, prob. f. pélekus axe, with reference to the bird's bill.

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Pelican

Pelican. A bird, employed as Christian symbol. Because of the false belief that the pelican feeds her young with her blood by piercing her breast with her beak, the pelican became a popular medieval symbol for Christ's redemptive work, especially as mediated through the eucharist.

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pelican

pelican. Gothic sculpture of the bird piercing her breast with her beak to draw blood to feed her young, symbolic of piety and the Eucharist.

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pelican

pelicanblacken, bracken, slacken •Sri Lankan •Alaskan, Gascon, Madagascan, Nebraskan •Aachen, darken, hearken, kraken, Marcan, Petrarchan •Interlaken •beckon, Deccan, pekan, reckon •Mencken •awaken, bacon, betaken, forsaken, Jamaican, mistaken, partaken, shaken, taken, waken •godforsaken •archdeacon, beacon, Costa Rican, deacon, Dominican, Mohican, Mozambican, Puerto Rican, weaken •quicken, sicken, stricken, thicken, Wiccan •silken •Incan, Lincoln •brisken, Franciscan •barbican • Rubicon • Gallican •Anglican •Helicon, pelican •basilican, Millikan, silicon •publican • pantechnicon • Copernican •African • American • hurricane •lexicon, Mexican •Corsican • Vatican • liken •Brocken, Moroccan •falcon, Lorcan, Majorcan, Minorcan •Balcon, Balkan •gyrfalcon •awoken, bespoken, betoken, broken, foretoken, oaken, outspoken, plain-spoken, ryokan, spoken, token, woken •heartbroken •Lucan, toucan •Saarbrücken • Buchan • Vulcan •drunken, Duncan, shrunken, sunken •Etruscan, molluscan (US molluskan), Tuscan •Ardnamurchan • lochan

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Pelican

PELICAN

PELICAN , one of the largest of water birds. Three species of the pelican (genus Pelecanus) are occasionally seen in Israel in the nature preserve that was formerly part of the Ḥuleh swamps, as well as in fish ponds. The pelican may be the שַׂקְנַאִי (saknai) mentioned in the Talmud (Ḥul. 63a) as a bird that was eaten in some places but not in others since there were doubts as to its kashrut. Its Hebrew name is derived from the pouch (sak) under its lower bill jaw used for storing the fish it catches. The Septuagint identifies the pelican with the קָאָת (ka'at; Lev. 11:18; Isa. 34:11; et al.), which was apparently the view, too, of an amora (Ḥul. loc. cit.), who identified the ka'at with the kik (Ḥul. loc. cit with the reading of the Arukh) said to be found in the neighborhood of seas and to be very fatty (Shab. 21a). But the identification of ka'at with the pelican, a waterfowl, is improbable, since it is mentioned in the Bible as a bird that inhabits the desert and ruins, and is a species of *owl. This identification has, however, passed into modern Hebrew.

bibliography:

Lewysohn, Zool, 184f., 368; F.S. Bodenheimer, Animal and Man in Bible Lands (1960), 64; M. Dor, Leksikon Zo'ologi (1965), 343.

[Jehuda Feliks]

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Pelican

PELICAN

In the Christian tradition, the pelican is identified as a symbol of Christ the Redeemer. The long beak of the white pelican is furnished with a sack which serves as a container for the small fish that it feeds its young. In the process of feeding them, the bird presses the sack against its neck in such a way that it seems to open its breast with its bill. The reddish tinge of its breast plumage and the redness of the tip of its beak fostered the folkloristic notion that it actually drew blood from its own breast. The Physiologus found the action of the pelican, so interpreted, as a particularly apt symbol of Christ the Redeemer:

The little pelicans strike their parents, and the parents, striking back, kill them. But on the third day the mother pelican strikes and opens her side and pours blood over her dead young. In this way they are revivified and made well. So our Lord Jesus Christ says also through the prophet Isaiah: "I have brought up children and exalted them, but they have despised me" (Is 1:2). We struck God by serving the creature rather than the Creator. Therefore he deigned to ascend the cross, and, when his side was pierced, blood and water gushed forth unto our salvation and eternal life.

Under the influence primarily of the Physiologus, the pelican as a symbol of Christ the Redeemer, a symbol already

familiar to St. Augustine (Enarr. In Psalm. 101:7), has a wide usage in Christian literature. As important and typical examples of medieval use, it will suffice to mention the allusion in the hymn Adoro te devote and that in Dante's Paradiso (25:113). In Christian art it is employed from the late Middle Ages, but especially in the Renaissance and in the baroque period. From the late Middle Ages the pelican is employed also as a symbol of the Eucharist. In art, particularly in baroque art, the pelican is found frequently as an ornament on altars, pyxes, chalices, and tabernacle doors.

[m. r. p. mcguire/eds.]

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