Perspective: The Pelican Paradox

May 14, 2019

On a rainy May afternoon, I took my daughter Iris and our black dog Shady for a walk down to the confluence of Bass Creek and the Rock River to see our regal new neighbors -- The Pelicans! They moved into the area in early April and still haven’t flown north. There’s something affirming about having pelicans for neighbors. If these glamorous creatures have chosen this stretch of muddy river, well, it must be a good place to live after all. I must have chosen well!

White Pelicans on the Rock River are a paradox worthy of beholding. They’re just too grand for the river, with their white topcoats and black lapels. When one glides down the river channel, it seems as if his wing tips could touch each shore at once. At the confluence that day were twenty pelicans lazing in the shallows, close enough that you could see the strange bony plates growing from their yellow bills. Called caruncles, these dinosaurish ridges are shed every year after mating. Let that sink in for a moment. There is an enormous white bird afoot in our waters that sheds part of its bill every year like a deer sheds its antlers.

As we watched the Pelicans, a trio of ink-black cormorants dropped from the sky to join the white flotilla. It’s almost too good to but true, I thought. Iris seemed to read my mind. “It’s like the finishing touch on a really pretty quilt,” she said. Before I could respond, the black dog Shady bolted down the path after a muskrat. You never can interest a young mutt in the watching of the birds.

I’m Chris Fink and that’s my perspective