You can technically eat a pelican, but you may have to jump through some hoops to get there. First off, is it ok to hunt a pelican?
Can You Hunt Pelicans?
It depends. It is usually illegal to kill a pelican, but you can obtain a hunting permit authorized by the MBTA. You must ensure the pelican has a quick and humane death. These large birds also require accuracy to shoot and kill. The permits also require you to dispose of the bird to avoid attracting predators.
You must have a legitimate reason to get a pelican hunting permit, though. Several valid permits let you disturb pelicans to chase them away from your land or fishing grounds, but none are hunting licenses. It’s hard to say how much you can do if you get a permit.
Can You Eat Pelican Eggs?
It depends. MBTA also protects the nests of pelicans, but the permit allows the disturbing of a nest. In theory, yes, you can eat pelican eggs. In practice, maybe not. They are larger than chicken eggs, but most will be fertilized, since laying unfertilized eggs like chickens do is uncommon for wild birds; it’s a waste of energy.
What Do Pelicans Taste Like?
People have described pelicans as tasting like fish since that is their primary food source. Others say they taste more like other birds like turkey. Many people say pelican meat is unpleasant to eat because, like all animals, the meat tastes like the substances pelicans consume; think lots of sulfur and ammonia. Their meat is also said to be bland and greasy.
It is subjective, though. What one person detests, another may love.
What Do Pelicans Eat?
Pelicans subsist on fish. Their bill pouch allows them to scoop up fish from a body of water and tilt their heads forward to drain the water from their bill. Then they swallow the fish whole. Adult pelicans can eat up to 4 pounds of fish per day.
Pelicans feed their young by regurgitating fish they caught earlier for the young pelicans to eat. Once the birds start getting older, the parents will bring whole fish. Around three months old, pelicans are pretty independent and feed themselves.
Is There Any Health or Nutritional Benefit?
There has not been a lot of research into the nutritional makeup of pelican meat, but depending on their diet, it can be high in protein, like other meats. Future research may uncover more nutritional benefits. Pelican meat is leaner than more common meats and will be free of mass-growth techniques and chemicals.
Is it a Good Idea, Though?
When you decide if you want to try pelican meat, consider your impact on their population. Pelicans are a protected species for a reason. Other species like whitetail deer or alligators are kept in control by hunting, so consider trying one of those unique meats first.
Of course, if you’re ever desperate enough to eat a pelican, proper cooking will ensure that you don’t get sick from eating pelican meat. It might not be the most pleasant experience, but you won’t die from it—unlike the pelican!