Feeding the pelicans
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week,
But I'm damned if I see how the helican
- Popular limerick originally composed by Dixon Lanier Merritt in 1910
Pelicans are awesome looking birds- they have very long beaks, large see-through pouches along their necks, webbed feet, huge expansive wings, and they eat lots of fish.
They're wild too. Until now. These days pelicans near the Roseau Fisheries complex eat out of a man's hand, out of the hands of Gibbons Benjamin, the retired policeman, national singer and producer of Benjamin Seamoss health drink.
"After retirement I was looking for a little hobby to keep me busy, so I learnt to throw the cast net. So I bought a cast net and began throwing it. And when I would catch my fish it would attract the birds. I started to drive them away and when I realized that they were insistent, I gave them some fish. I would give them the smaller ones. That's how it really started," Benjamin said.
"Now every morning I would come and once they identify me they would come and expect me to send some kayie for them."
Pelicans, according to ThoughtCo, and their relatives are well adapted to catching fish, their primary food source.
"Many species dive or swim underwater to capture their prey," the website says. "Pelicans and their relatives belong to the Order Pelecaniformes. Members of the Order Pelecaniformes include pelicans, tropicbirds, boobies, darters, gannets, cormorants and frigatebirds. There are six families and about 65 species in the Order Pelecaniformes."
Pelicans can also plunge-dive from heights of up to 150 ft. and at speeds of up to 60 mph. They spot their prey before they dive using sharp vision and then tuck their wings back as the plummet in for the kill.
They also use their amazing sight to identify their new friend, Gibbons Benjamin.
"They expect me to be there every morning; so if I come to the market I would see them there waiting, hoping," said Benjamin. "Once they see my bus, once I arrive they would come from everywhere."
They now eat out of Benjamin's hands but that was not always the case.
"I was giving them the fish and one was at my back and it grabbed the fish. I kind of panicked because you can see they have formidable beaks. It has a hook at the end so I thought it had injured me. When I realized that was not harmful I tried feeding them by hand. Initially they were aggressive but when they realized the fish was in my hand they just came and picked it up.
"Am I enjoying feeding them? Yeah, man. It's nice to be one with nature."
When he has no fish from his nets, Benjamin buys fish from fish vendors to feed the pelicans.
Benjamin sees feeding the pelicans on the shore near the Roseau Fisheries Complex as a possible new tourist attraction because dozens of cruise ship visitors, cameras flashing, now come to see him feeding the pelicans.