Latin name: Pelicanus
Other names: Honocrotalus, Oonocrotalus
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.

Pelicans live in Egypt. There are two kinds: one kind lives on water and eats poisonous animals like crocodiles and lizards; the other kind, with a long neck and beak, makes a sound like an ass when it drinks (this kind is called the onocrotalus). Some say that the two kinds are distinguished by other attributes: the kind that live in water eat fish, while the kind that live on islands eat dirty animals. The pelican has an insatiable hunger, and because its stomach cannot hold food for long, everything it eats is immediately digested.


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 modelled 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."