Charlie the Pelican – Oceanside’s Unofficial Mascot

The coastal beach town of Oceanside is known for many things; fantastic weather, large sandy beaches, a picturesque harbor, top-notch restaurants and breweries, family-friendly atmosphere, etc. However, one thing has always been synonymous with Oceanside, and that is the pier. First built in 1888 and subsequently rebuilt in its current location in 1893/94, the pier has been a part of Oceanside for over a century. With the advent of the Oceanside Pier came the chance for people to enjoy the ocean in new ways, and fishing in deep water suddenly became possible for anyone with a fishing rod. As pier fishing grew in popularity, a symbiotic relationship began forming between the local birds and the fisherman. Over the years this relationship led to the birds getting more and more comfortable with human interaction, which eventually trickled down to the largest coastal bird of them all, the Brown Pelican.

With a wingspan of up to 8 feet and a weight of up to 35 pounds these large majestic birds are a sight to behold, and very rarely do people get a chance to take in their beauty up close. The pier changed that in Oceanside, as the Brown Pelicans learned the benefit of hanging around the fisherman who often tossed extra bait and captured fish their way. Fast forward to the early 2000’s and the Pier Bait Shop located directly in the middle of the pier formed a special relationship with one particular Brown Pelican dubbed “Charlie.”

Cristopher Monsale, a seven year employee of the Pier Bait Shop, shared that one day a pelican, which would eventually become known as Charlie, arrived at the bait store looking injured from potentially being caught in fishing line and hooks. Owner of the Pier Bait Shop, Ed Gonsalves, noticed that the pelican looked unhealthy and decided to help by feeding him extra bait fish. This act of kindness sparked a nearly decade long friendship between the two which eventually expanded to including several other Brown Pelican visitors that also like to hang out. The friends have all been given names of their own and now Mike, 3 Toes, Chompers, and Boo join in on the fun and lovingly welcome visitors to the Oceanside Pier.

Charlie quickly became a mainstay directly beside the Pier Bait Shop; unafraid of people, curious, and always hungry he attracted tourists and locals alike to the Pier. Ed Gonsalves began selling anchovies to tourists to feed Charlie and his friends that would perch on the railing.

Residents and locals alike love that Charlie has decided to call Oceanside home and spend his days greeting guests along the pier. But it is important to note that although Charlie is super cute and photogenic, he is still a wild animal and should be treated with respect and enjoyed from a distance.

Over time Charlie has come and gone, taking a brief hiatus once in a while before returning back to the Oceanside Pier and making himself right at home in his usual spot. Since his arrival Charlie has brought joy and happiness to thousands of visitors and locals of all ages, and has become Oceanside’s unofficial mascot in the process. In many local’s eyes he even goes beyond that, Charlie has been embraced as an O’side O’riginal!

A post shared by Rich Cruse (@richonown) on

A post shared by Rich Cruse (@richonown) on

So much so in fact that the popular monthly First Friday: Oceanside Art Walk honored Charlie during their June event for bringing people together from far and wide to visit Oceanside! The producer of the First Friday: Oceanside Art Walk, Susan Brown, had this to say about Charlie: “Many of us have grand kids, nieces, nephews etc and they all love to walk down the pier to see Charlie. He is an icon in Oceanside!”.

Whether you’ve got the real Charlie, or any of his pelican friends in front of your camera be sure to post your pictures and use the hashtag #CharlieThePelican to mark your time here in Oceanside and maybe even have your picture featured!

Published: February 20, 2018

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