St James’s Park lies mere metres away from my office, and the gorgeous Spring sunshine felt like enough justification for a (slightly-extended) lunch time jolly to see its famous eastern white pelicans at feeding time. It turns out that they’re a bit of a park institution; the first ones were gifted by the Russian ambassador in 1664, and the current ones have a reputation for eating the odd pigeon that doesn’t have enough of its wits about it. Happily/sadly, depending on your appetite for such circle-of-life occurrences, this didn’t happen on our visit.
After a brief walk round the lake, which more or less consisted of a sea of coot, we made our way over to duck island cottage (future house goals), where the pelicans, who have excellent time keeping skills, were already waiting. At 2.30 their keeper appeared with a bucket of mackerel. Now, pelicans are some seriously impressive birds, and when you watch them preening their white feathers with a pinkish tinge they look almost balletic. All this sense of decorum fell away as soon as the fish appeared, and they would continually get caught at odd angles in their throat pouches, before being turned round to go down head first. This would be followed by a good amount of neck-wiggling (a term I thought unlikely to have to use on this blog) to get the thing down their throats.
It’s a good chance to appreciate the sheer size of these birds, and just how ridiculously long that beak is. I’d recommend getting there in good time before the feed, as afterwards they tend to retreat to their favourite sunning rocks in the middle of the lake.
The pelicans at St James’s Park are fed every day at 2.30pm, by Duck Island Cottage