Storks are considered omens of good fortune in Polish culture. They would build their nests on top of chimneys, and sometimes people in the country even set up special poles topped with a wagon wheel to facilitate the birds building one. A stork family returning to their nest from wintering in Africa is treated like a return of old family friends. But one village in northern Poland welcomed a newcomer this spring, and a rather exotic one at that.
The white stork (Ciconia ciconia) is native to Europe, with Poland being one of the main places where the majestic bird breeds and raises its young during spring and summer, before departing for warmer climes in Africa for autumn and winter.
The white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus, also known as the great white pelican and rosy pelican, among others) also spends the colder months in Africa and migrates north for the breeding season. But Poland is not its typical ‘sex tourism’ destination – rather areas in Central Asia and the Danube Delta are.
Imagine the surprise of the locals in the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Province in northern Poland, when they spotted the exotic bird.
A surprise more so by the fact that the pelican appears to act like a stork.
The bird was first spotted on April 12, with more sightings over the upcoming days.
It finally settled on the roof of one of the houses in the village of Zalesie. The villagers were surprised not only at the sight of the exotic specimen but also at its behavior. It fought a stork over a stork nest. That was when they noticed peculiarities in its behavior they would otherwise expect from storks.
“Everybody was surprised. It is a big curiosity, we never had a pelican turn up,” one resident of Zalesie said.
“This specimen clearly has some penchant for adventure,” said Karolina Jamska, a Bydgoszcz-based ornithologist, commenting on the pelican’s visibly scarred feet. She also explained that the species is mostly found in Africa, with habitats in southern Europe, mostly the Danube Delta.