While I was working on this post, I was having some difficulty thinking of a title.  Finally, I remembered a couple of books of short nonfiction stories by Jean Craighead George that I read when I was little.  Jean Craighead George grew up in a family of naturalists and always had unusual animals living in her house, and the stories had names like “An Owl in the Shower” and “The Skunk in the Closet.”  So, I decided to take my cue from one of my favorite childhood authors, because right now, at TreeHouse, we have a pelican living in the greenhouse.

The pelican demands fish.

This American White Pelican is one of my favorite animals that’s come to TreeHouse since I started working here.  He was left behind at Riverlands when the pelicans migrated through in the fall, and after he had been spotted walking along one of the roads in the sanctuary, we picked him up during the same trip as the trumpeter swan we released a couple of weeks ago.  It turned out that he was missing the tip of one wing, and was therefore unable to fly.  He was evidently doing OK, but we were concerned that if the lakes where he was spending most of his time were to freeze, he would be unable to feed himself and would be very vulnerable to predators.  Had we not been able to place him in a new home, we most likely would have returned him to the wild and let nature take its course.  Fortunately, the Saint Louis Zoo agreed to add him to their flock.  There is a mandatory quarantine period for any new animal at the zoo, however, and they are currently renovating their hospital building and so will not have quarantine facilities available until April.  So, we are keeping him in the greenhouse until then.

The reason that he’s my favorite has nothing to do with his personality—he’s actually quite pushy and a bit mean—or the ease of caring for him—he makes a huge mess and the whole building smells like fish if we aren’t careful.  It’s just that he’s so much fun to feed!  He gets a pound and a half of smelt each day, so whoever has animal care duties for the day gets to go into the greenhouse and toss the fish to him one by one and watch him catch them in his ridiculously over-sized bill.  If you have really good aim, the fish will just slide right down his throat and all he has to do is close his mouth!