From the time when the Orange Belt Railway Pier extension was completed in 1888, local fisherman have often shared their favorite fishing spot with the pelicans.
And although it's no longer advised, back then it was a popular pastime for visitors to stroll among the pelicans lining the wooden structure offering them handouts. Old postcards often featured the big brown birds as a symbol of the beach & tropical climate
In 1927 in an effort to create more unity among residents, the city of St Petersburg sponsored a contest in which citizens helped design its first flag and it featured... the pelican! The seabird has been on all subsequent flag designs. Incidentally the "winner" of the contest received the honor of having designed it and nothing else.
Today the pelican can be found on everything from city park signs, manhole covers to your water bill.
The pelican as a sports mascot appeared after World War II. An African American baseball team known as the St Petersburg Pelicans played at Campbell Park as part of the 8 team Florida State Negro Baseball League in the 1940's and 50's during segregation.
The St Petersburg Pelicans name was reincarnated albeit for a short time in late 1989 when an integrated team of former pro ballplayers took to the baseball diamond for a couple of seasons. There is also a local rugby club known as the Bay Area Pelicans that's been around since the 70's.
Not just in Florida, but throughout all of North America from the late 1950's until the early 1970's the use of DDT and other pesticides nearly wiped out the Brown Pelican population completely. With the ban of DDT in 1972 and limits on pesticides, pelican numbers have rebounded. Often you see them flying in a "V" formation or gliding effortlessly just above the surf or plunging head first into water for a meal. Pelican Island (the small island off of Coffee Pot Blvd just East of the Snell Island bridge) is an excellent place to see them roost for the night.
Some Pelican Facts
With its links to St. Pete's past as a fishing village to its current thriving population, the Brown Pelican is a perfect choice as an ambassador to remind us why the Sunshine City is so amazing.
Rev B has nearly been published multiple times and has received letters of rejection from Highlights, Jet Magazine, Dear Abby and The New Yorker. While accepting full responsibility for all grammatical errors he makes no claims of being an author. Please enjoy the entries found here and use the search function if you're looking for something more specific.