Pelicans not only have an incredible vision they have a keen sense of smell. You probably wonder, “How would Rodney know?” Well, because I have seen it for myself. Yes seriously, one morning a few years ago while on the west shore of the Indian River Lagoon at Palm Bay, Florida’s Ted Moorhead Lagoon House. I was preparing shrimp for kids to use for bait during the fifth or sixth Annual Palm Bay Hook Kids on Fishing program on the west shore on the Indian River Lagoon at Florida’s Ted Moorhead Lagoon House.
While sitting under the shade of a couple of cabbage palm trees, (actually sable palms; Florida’s official state tree) I watched as several flocks of pelicans cruise overhead. They were flying north to south over me without paying any attention to what I was up to below. Of course, up until I opened the cooler and started cutting shrimp. Then each time a flock flew by they all turned their heads and eyes down to me as I diced the shrimp into small pieces.
Another day I was driving north up Highway A1A in Melbourne Beach when I noticed a large squadron of brown pelicans cruising effortlessly alongside me just above the beach dune line. It was late afternoon, and the wind was fresh from the southeast; probably blowing 15 knots or a little more. Just to see what speed they were coasting (they only flapped their wings once or twice every thirty seconds or so) I eyed my Matrix’s odometer. I was amazed to see them stay side-by-side to me for two miles. Their speed? A whopping 42 miles per hour.
Fall is the time of year when the heavy runs of mullet and other forage fish migrate south along on Indian River Lagoon Coast. These large schools of fish attract feeding flocks of pelican and other marine birds. Be sure to use special precaution when fishing in these areas. If you accidently tangle with a pelican be aware, they are gentle creatures and need to be handled with great care. They are fairly harmless; except the tip of their beaks, which can scratch you, you need to remove hooks, fishing line and other foreign materials from their wings and body before you release them.
Do not feed pelicans in the wild. Nor should they be feared or mistreated. If you learn to watch them closely, I assure you they will lead you to the fish… their lives depend on it.
I trust my affection for pelicans is shared by many anglers. But unfortunately, it is not always the case. However, when I was talking around as I penned this story, I spoke with Jon Brangan, Deputy Director of the Brevard Zoo. This is what Jon said; I found it humorous and insightful.
We love pelicans, glad you are writing about them. As a side, our family affectionately call pelicans the knuckleheads. It comes from how they arrive at your boat when you return to the ramp at the Port. We call it lining up for handouts. They all have this “knucklehead” look to them and yes we give them voices. They ask things like “hey got anything for us?” It has become entertainment to count how many arrive and NO we do not feed them. Just check them out and do our knucklehead routine.
If you find an injured pelican or other wildlife in Brevard County go to or contact: The Florida Wildlife Hospital 4560 North US 1 Palm Shores (321) 254-8843