Spend a day at a marina in South Florida and you’ll see pelicans perched proudly on posts.
The birds are part of the area’s landscape and a pair of the beautiful birds have been taking their pride to the next level. Pepe and Enrique are a couple of pelicans that found love after tragedy.
They met at Pelican Harbor Seabird Station in Miami-Dade. Both had wing injuries and were treated and rehabbed by the caring staff. While they both recovered they can’t be released back into the wild. That has led to a rarely seen romance. “They are both boys but for the last 18 years they’ve been building their nest together, they’re not interested in any of the girls in there,” Hannah McDougall said.
As the communications director for Pelican Harbor she’s delighted to see them happy. “Eighteen years, longer than most relationships I know.”
Like mixed-sex pelicans, Pepe and Enrique go through an annual mating ritual. “When building the nest it’s super cute. The male will usually present the female with a stick and if it’s pretty enough she’ll accept it and [make a howl]. Pepe and Enrique do that too. They have their courting dance before they build their nest together.”
After that they literally change their appearance for one another. “Once they do find a mate their plumage changes. They lose their feathers and have their yearly ‘brown neck.’”
Enrique and Pepe don’t just live together, they also go through the motions of having a family.
“Pelicans take turns incubating the eggs. We give them a false egg and they take turns ‘incubating!’" Considering the fact pelicans can live up to 30 years, Pepe and Enrique likely still have lots of love in their future.
These beautiful boys are just two of the birds that will always call Pelican Harbor home. They’re “animal ambassadors” and are used to educate visitors. The station lets people ceremoniously adopt the birds (no, you don’t get to take them home) and Pepe and Enrique are “adoptable” only as a couple.
Over 41 years the facility has helped more than 37,000 patients.
To learn about Pelican Harbor Seabird Station, ceremonial adoption and more check out their website at PelicanHarbor.org.