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Dublin: 3°C Monday 29 November 2021

Pelican spotted on Wicklow river escaped from Fota Wildlife Park

It’s not the first time he’s done it.

The pelican previously went missing in 2018. Stock photo.
The pelican previously went missing in 2018. Stock photo.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A GREAT WHITE Pelican spotted on the Avoca River this week travelled to the Wicklow beauty spot after escaping from Fota Wildlife Park in Co Cork.

The impressive looking bird was seen near Nineteen Arches Bridge on the Avoca River yesterday.

The sighting ruffled quite a few feathers as it was initially thought to be a wild bird, which would have been the first ever sighting of a wild pelican in Ireland.

However, Fota Wildlife Park confirmed that the bird is a resident of the 100-acre facility.

The bird has lived at the park since 2012 and Sean McKeown, director of the park, said he previously sauntered off to Wexford in 2018.

“We’re a bit embarrassed that he’s gone off again,” McKeown told Morning Ireland on RTÉ.

But it’s good, in one way, that he can just fly off and enjoy a bit of time outside of the park. But we’d prefer if he stayed inside the park.

Boasting a wingspan of around three metres and weighing around 10kg, the Great White Pelican is one of the largest flying birds in the world.

The pelicans can easily travel significant distances and they guzzle down around 1.5kg of fish every day. They are usually found in swamps and shallow lakes around Southeast Europe, Asia and Africa.

McKeown said the pelican’s rambling itch might not be sated by his Wicklow break, but nonetheless they are hopeful that the bird will return to Fota in late September or early October.

“They went off before in 2018 and went right along the south coast over to Wexford and came back. It was two of them, his half-brother is here in the Wildlife Park. So, he’s more likely to return here,” McKeown said.

fota-wildlife-park-fota-ireland Pelicans in Fota Wildlife Park. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

The park director said the bird is unlikely to stay in Wexford and if he doesn’t return to Fota he might head for pelican hotspots in other parts of Europe.

He might come back here or head off to the continent, possibly to Greece or Romania, places like that, where there are other Great White Pelicans.

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The Wicklow wanderer isn’t the only adventurous animal in Fota Wildlife Park.

Last October another pair of pelicans decided to stretch their wings and see other parts of the world by relocating to the wetlands on Cork harbour. 

In summer 2019 another two of the birds also went on the run. In that instance they didn’t return from their sojourn until five months later. 

Meanwhile, back in 2015 an ape, a penguin and a monkey were among the animals that escaped from the wildlife park over the course of the year.

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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