by Dixon Lanier Merritt

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week.
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dixon Lanier Merritt (1879–1972) was an American poet and humorist. He was a newspaper editor for the Tennessean, Nashville’s morning paper, and President of the American Press Humorists Association. He penned the well-known limerick “The Pelican” in 1910.

PAINTING: “American White Pelican” by John James Audubon (1836), published in The Birds of America by John James Audubon.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: John James Audubon (1785-1851), born Jean-Jacques Audubon,  was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats. His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America (1827–1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed. Audubon identified 25 new species. (Read more at

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