Pelican, any bird of the genus Pelecanus, constituting the family Pelecanidae, with several species, from tropical and temperate regions.
Pelicans are large fish-eating water-birds, frequenting rivers, lakes, and coasts, and rarely seen far from land. They have a long, large, flattened bill; the upper mandible is strongly hooked, and beneath the lower is a large dilatable pouch of naked skin, serving as a receptacle for prey, which is stored therein, either to feed their young, or to be devoured at leisure. The best known species, the Common Pelican (P. onocrotalus), is a native of south-eastern Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is about the size of a swan, but looks larger, from the fact that the plumage is very loose. The general hue is white, with a flesh tint, and in old birds the feathers on the braast become of a golden yellow. The nest, with two or three white eggs, is usually on the ground, not far from water. The story that the mother-bird feeds her young with blood from her own breast is, of course, fabulous; but as flamingoes discharge a bloody secretion into the mouths of their young, and even into the mouths of other birds, it has been suggested that this habit, transferred from one bird to another, and added to in the process, is the foundation of the myth.