Lessons from Pelicans: Teamwork

This week, we have been astounded by hundreds of visiting white pelicans on our small inlet. We’re new to the area and so I didn’t know if this was a “normal” part of the bird migration that I somehow missed last year, but no, it’s a new treat for all of us. And it has been breathtaking.

What I’ve learned about watching these easy-going, majestic birds is they have a two-part attitude towards work: you can go it alone or you can be a part of a team. And so you see these birds dancing in the water together, moving the fish towards the edges of the shore and then you see other loners off doing their own thing.

The curious part is that once a dance starts up, dozens of other pellies will flop over and join in. And then you see the loners occasionally jump in as well. As I watched, I was most curious about how the team treated the more stoic members of their flock. Would they reject them? Would they rebuff them? Push them aside and basically in pelican speak tell them to “buzz off”? Seriously, folks. This is the stuff that whirls through my brain as I am watching them interact.

But they didn’t. Not once. The team just kept doing it’s thing and did not act flustered by an influx of beaks, wings, or wide feet.

We need to be more like these birds. There is enough for all of us. And when we work together, expanded teams tend to catch more fish.

Did I see a pelican flustered. Why, yes. This morning at breakfast, one was snorkling, beak barely below the water surface and poked a fellow pelican in the rump. That bird jumped up flapping and all but boomeranged its wings on the do-do bird who was swimming along with its eyes closed. It was funny to watch the one bird react and then the other bird react and then they both settled down and went back to loafing in the morning sunshine.