Royal park resident turns nasty and eats neighbour

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The Independent Online
AMERICA MAY be a dog eat dog world, but it is apparently not a place where bird dines on fellow bird. When a group of US tourists visiting one of London's royal parks witnessed an act of feathery cannibalism they were taken aback.

The offending bird was one of five pelicans in St James's Park. Not satisfied with its regular daily diet of 5lb of fresh fish, it turned its attention to one of the park's moorhens.

"I am utterly disgusted," said one of the tourists from Louisiana, who watched as the pelican opened its huge beak and gulped at the hapless wildfowl. Too big to swallow whole, the pelican was forced to stand chewing the moorhen until it was slightly more manageable. Then down it went, feathers and all.

Pelicans have been kept in St James's Park ever since a pair were given to Charles II by the Russian ambassador in 1660.

While the five birds receive a daily feed of fish costing pounds 100, their keeper, Malcolm Kerr, who has worked at the park for the past 25 years, said they will also cure those in- between-meals blues by snacking on whatever else there is available. "If something dives in front of them they'll grab it," he said.

Last night the Royal Parks Agency said there were few reports of the birds eating other resident wildlife. "There is no real problem. They are usually quite happy with their fish," said a spokesman, Tom Corby. "There have been no complaints from anyone. None of those tourists have contacted us."

Four of the five pelicans have clipped wings, but the fifth - known as Gargi - still has his powers of flight.

The South African pink-backed pelican is frequently seen flying off from the park to drop in at London Zoo or else a pond in Kensington Gardens.

He usually returns at 3pm prompt for his afternoon feed but on occasion has missed his meal-time. Once he accidentally ended up in Southend and had to be collected by van.