Let’s Talk with Cheryl Hollon

Pelicans Everywhere
by Cheryl Hollon

Earlier this year St. Petersburg, Florida declared the pelican as the official bird of the city. It’s been the unofficial bird for decades. It has adorned recycling bins, trash cans, and city promotional materials since the 1980s.

A new sculpture at the entrance to the renovated pier is a large, origami style red pelican. In addition, there are about ten red metal life-like pelicans scattered throughout the space.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the brown pelican is the smallest of six species of pelicans around the world. You can see these seabirds throughout most of Florida’s beaches, particularly over here on the state’s west coast. The brown pelican is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and is listed as imperiled.

The pelican has also made itself a common feature in the murals around town. This latest one is only about three weeks old as a result of the #HappyMural project. Well done!

The bird has already been an unofficial symbol of the city for decades, but Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration made it official January 9, 2020. An outline of the indigenous bird is already on the city’s flag and the city’s official seal.

It brings to mind the famous limerick by Dixon Lanier Merritt:
“A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week!
But I’ll be darned if I know how the hellican?”

As St. Petersburg is the setting for the books in my Webb’s Glass Shop Mystery Series, I’m going to find a way to slip a pelican into my next book.

Does your town have a symbol?

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Comments

  1. My parents brought back a postcard from a Florida vacation with that rhyme, though a little different. “His beak can hold more than his belly can, though I’m darned if I see how the hell he can!”

  2. You can always have a pelican snatch an important clue. Or perhaps the suspect is an artist who specializes in sea life. Lots of ways to use this in a story. Then find a pelican-related item for a giveaway!

    • cherylhollon says

      That’s fabulous. I had a pelican try to steal our bait when my dad and I went fishing on the pier. The only reason it didn’t get away with it was because the bait fish was very lively and escaped. Thanks!

  3. The pelican graced the St. Petersburg police badges in the 1920s. In my opinion that is pretty official.

  4. Ands when you’re on a kayak and they dive in about two feet from you, they are big, scary birds!! LOL

  5. maggietoussaint says

    No official symbol, but the sight of the shrimpboat fleet along the Darien River is somewhat iconic for our county. I love your pelican post!

    • cherylhollon says

      That symbol means coastal to me. In the late 70’s, there were actually a few working shirimpboats here in downtown St. Petersburg. No more.

  6. Are pelicans pink/red? In Birmingham, we have Vulcan, the largest cast iron statue in the world which pays homage to the iron workers. Anne George used it as a centerpiece for setting in her wonderful mystery books.

    • cherylhollon says

      The red pelicans on the pier are all painted red per artistic license, but the live bird ranges from white to brown. Locally, the brown pelican is the most common.

  7. I’m in the Midwest, Cheryl, and have used my small town in my books. We’re known as The Maple City, and if you could see my front yard right now, you’d understand why. A pelican is a great symbol since it can be used in so many ways!

    • cherylhollon says

      My roots are in Southwest Ohio and I missed seeing the maple leaves change this year. Still haven’t gotten the pelican in my WIP. Pesky plot challenges. Ha!

  8. authorlois says

    When we drove down to Key West a few years ago, we stopped for lunch at Islamorada and enjoyed a live pelican show as we ate. I was amazed at how patient and well behaved they were, just sitting on the pier, watching us as we watched them. At the NJ shore the seagulls will dive bomb you to steal your lunch!

    • cherylhollon says

      Seagulls are a raucous lot. They love to squabble over everything. Pelicans are lovely fellows. We get a lot of juveniles along the downtown waterfront. They’re goofy, awkward, and lots of fun to watch. I love watching them fly in formation skimming the surface by a few inches. Almost a meditation.

  9. dianestuckart says

    What a fun post. Pelicans rule! I love watching them on the docks in West Palm Beach, too. 🙂

    • cherylhollon says

      I was surprised by the official appointment — I thought the pelican had already been adopted by the city. The new pier has attracted a precious few out at the very end. That’s were the fishing happens.