It is said naturalists of old, observing that the pelican had a crimson stain on the tip of its beak, reported that it was accustomed to feed its young with the blood flowing from its breast, which it tore for the purpose. In this belief the Early Christians adopted the pelican to figure Christ, and set forth the redemption through His blood, which was willingly shed for us His children.

From Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art by John Vinycomb, p185

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