Latin name: Pelicanus
Other names: Canopos, Osina, Pelikan, Pellecano, Pelliquecanus, Sisegoum
Category: Bird

A bird that revives its dead young with its own blood

General Attributes

As young pelicans grow, they begin to strike their parents in the face with their beaks. Though the pelican has great love for its young, it strikes back and kills them. After three days, the mother pierces her side or her breast and lets her blood fall on the dead birds, and thus revives them. Some say it is the male pelican that kills the young and revives them with his blood.

Thomas of Cantimpré in his encyclopedia says that after the mother has shed her blood to revive her chicks, she is too weak to leave the nest, so her chicks go out to find food for themselves and their mother. Some are afraid to leave the nest, and these starve. Others go out, but only to feed themselves. He also says pelicans feed on the milk of crocodiles.


The pelican is Christ, who humanity struck by committing sin; the pelican cutting open its own breast represents Christ's death on the cross, and the shedding of his blood to revive us. The Aberdeen Bestiary adds that the hunger of the pelican signifies that "...the life of a hermit is modeled on the pelican, in that he lives on bread but does not seek to fill his stomach; he does not live to eat but eats to live."