Greedy Pelicans

By Maha Khalil

This is one of my very earliest childhood memories. At the time, I was about three years old, living with my family in Harrogate, England, and we were on a sight-seeing trip in London. I do not remember anything of this trip except for flashes of our outings in Hyde Park, and it was there that I had a memorable encounter with a pelican.

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I was sitting quietly – a rare thing for me at that age – sleepily munching a sandwich. My parents were a few feet away taking a picture of something or other. I felt an odd presence nearby and looked left to find myself staring straight up into the black eyes of a very long-beaked, long-necked and long-legged white bird. Even though the pelican was much taller than me and standing very close, I remember I was not afraid. I sat there and it stood there, and we were watching each other motionlessly with considerable curiosity on both sides. Or at least I thought the pelican was curious. However, I changed my mind when the creature suddenly bent over its large beak and quickly grabbed the sandwich clean out of my hand before walking away rather coldly. I looked back at my parents to find that my dad, instead of shooing the pelican away from his three-year-old child, was busy taking pictures of the event and was quite upset for having missed the instant when the pelican had grabbed the sandwich! Finally realizing how much my pride was hurt by all this, and missing my sandwich, I did what I should have done much earlier and began to cry. But after seeing the picture below, I am glad it was only the sandwich the pelican wanted!

Of course, my opinion of the birds of England was not improved when the next day, a bunch of mallard ducks were not satisfied by the bits of bread I was throwing them and came out of the water to steal an apple from my other hand and then didn’t eat it!!

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