The early church saw the pelican as a symbol of Christ. I see these birds as symbols of beauty. They gracefully skim a dozen feet above the water, curl their wings, and suddenly drop to catch a fish. When at rest, they sit peacefully on their selected post. They are not like the cormorants, who constantly clown around and jostle each other to get the 'best' seat.
The early church picked up on an ancient legend concerning the pelican. It was believed that in times of famine, a mother pelican would feed her chicks by stabbing her chest with her beak until it bled. The hungry chicks would lap up the blood mixed with tears and be nourished. If the famine went on long enough, this act of self-sacrifice would take the life of the mother. So, the early church instructed their leaders. The institutional, mother church, in every community had to be prepared to give up their leaders to martyrdom, if persecution threatened the faith of new believers. With grace and beauty, the early church leaders offered communion (blood) and baptism (tears) to whoever would ask.
Today, the church is having a hard time adapting to the religious famine of our postmodern society. Mainline churches are bleeding members, but not feeding their young. They have lost hold on the power of the sacraments. They pray to be successful, when they need to pray to be relevant and life saving.
The parable of the Egg (Reality Check chapt 2), relates to this subject. The pelican photos on this site were taken in St. Petersburg, Sanibel Island, Clearwater, and a bird rescue center in Florida.