Should we pity the poor young pelican?
The Ugly Duckling, after all, grew up to be a beautiful swan, while the baby pelican—surely among the homeliest creatures on Earth—can look forward only to becoming . . . an adult pelican. Whether this constitutes much of an improvement is debatable.
Consider some of the words used by writers from Audubon onward to describe the American white pelican: clumsy, awkward, ungainly, grotesque, and absurdly ridiculous. Even the authoritative and no-nonsense new series The Birds of North America temporarily abandons scientific detachment to call the pelican somewhat comic, as if it were a feathered basset hound.