Early Christian painters always represented this emblem of devoted self-sacrifice, A Pelican in her piety- that is, feeding her young with her own blood- as having the head and beak of an eagle or bird of prey… and not with the clumsy and ungainly “bill” peculiar to this species of bird, which we know is more suited to gobble up small reptiles than to “vulning” itself.

From Fictional and Symbolic Creatures in Art by John Vinycomb, p11

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