The pelicans – named Sun, Moon and Star – arrived in the park towards the end of May but have been hidden from public view whilst they acclimatise to their new surroundings. During this time, they were closely monitored by The Royal Parks’ (TRP) Senior Wildlife Officer, Hugh Smith, to ensure they were feeding well, before their release on the lake today (15 July) to join the park’s three resident pelicans – Isla, Tiffany and Gargi.
Pelicans have been a feature of St James’s Park since 1664 when the Russian Ambassador presented them to King Charles II. Since then over 40 pelicans have made St James’s Park, one of London’s eight Royal Parks, their home. The flock are fed fresh fish, usually roach and whiting, at 2.30pm everyday by the wildlife officer, and their favourite hangout is Pelican rock in the middle of the lake.
Hatched in February, the new pelicans are nearing their adult size and within the next six months will turn completely white. The males, Moon and Sun are brothers, and Star - so called because of the spot on her forehead - is a female.
Hugh Smith, Senior Wildlife Officer for The Royal Parks, predicts it will take a few weeks for the two flocks to come together: “At first we are expecting minimal interaction between the new and established pelicans. There will be a period of adjustment as we are putting three relatively tame birds with three semi-wild birds.
“I don’t think there will be any disagreements, just a bit of suspicion whilst they get to know each other. It won’t be long before the new additions will be using Pelican rock because it’s the obvious place to roost.”
The latest arrivals were hand reared in Prague Zoo, and TRP Senior Wildlife Officer Hugh has been attempting to reduce their tameness by keeping human contact to a minimum and only entering the pen to feed them and clean the enclosure.
“The resident pelicans at St James’s Park are semi-wild. Apart from feeding, and the odd vet visit, interaction with people is almost non-existent.
“Pelicans generally choose to stay on the lake and not wander, because this is where they are happiest. Occasionally they like to amble along the paths, and if this happens, we would like to remind the public not to feed or touch them, and to give them space. We want to reduce their tameness, not encourage it. Also, the pelicans are fed exclusively on fresh roach and whiting so it’s unlikely the general public would have appropriate food on them anyway.”
Director of Prague Zoo, Miroslav Bobek, said: “We are very honoured to help St James’s Park in London keep this 350 year tradition alive. We know Sun, Moon and Star will have a very happy life there with the resident pelicans.’
If you would like to find out more about the pelicans and uncover more interesting facts about the historic landscape, you can join The Royal Parks Learning team on their monthly walk ‘Hidden Stories of St James’s Park.’