Another two-stage bird right after the first one native to Hoenn; the last one wasn’t bad, but Wingull feels like she has much more going on.
Where Taillow and Swellow went for a pretty direct adaptation of swallows, Wingull gives us a distinctly cartoony take on wildlife. Big, round, flat wings that look more like a kite’s than a bird’s. Exaggerated shapes, with her head and whole body being one big egg. And those eyes. Tall, single-line eyes that feel like they were pulled from a 1930s animated short – not any one in particular, but more calling out the idea of simplified character design.
…which is all well and good, because seagulls are famously behave more-or-less like very aggressive Water Pigeons. Abstracting the actual animal away lets them match the platonic ideal of a seagull instead, and the result is pretty cute. Those big wings in particular cinch the imagery – a flock of them gliding over the ocean, wings, held still, looks utterly idyllic. Mark me down as a fan of Wingull.
Pelipper may be a totally different seabird, but she’s got the same idea: take a coastal bird and exaggerate it to cartoony delight.
Her shape is almost more exaggerated than Wingull’s, being ridiculously roly-poly and round. She’s going for a different kind of eye, but this one is a more specific reference to Fleischer cartoons or even some Disney shorts from the era. There are even distinct “fingers” on her wings, which you can very much imagine her picking up a book with or doing something equally animated.
(Fun fact: the Wikipedia page on “rubber-hose animation” currently dedicates more text to examples of the style used after 2000 than to its use when it was dominant. Ah, the internet and recency bias.)
Pelipper herself looks totally unmanageable and not-at-all flightworthy – her silhouette is almost more “boat” than “bird” – but that goofiness is exactly what makes her charming to me. Sure, real pelicans have enough of their own weirdness going on to drive some wacky lore, or even be their own family. But we’re far enough in that I appreciate combining adjacent concepts into one neat little family, and besides – it’s hard to dislike a big dumb bird.
She’s a tough one to use in the games, though. That double-weakness to electricity is absolutely cripping, especially with her miserable speed and iffy health and special defenses – odd, considering that bigger monsters tend to have more health. Still, she resists quite a few other types, and one of her passive abilities lets her more-or-less use Rain Dance for free whenever she swaps in. Pair that with Hurricane or her various Water-type moves and a solid special attack, and Pelliper can definitely pull her weight – she just might be a little situational.
One thing we haven’t seen in a while is Pokémon With Jobs, and Pelipper manages to sneak in here. I don’t think we’ve ever seen it in the core series, but there’s plenty of mentions of the wild things that Pelipper is willing to carry in its massive beak aside from scooped-up prey. Eggs, small Pokémon, human children – so long as it doesn’t spoil with moisture, it’s good to go.
…and even sometimes if it can’t get wet, since Pelipper are the de-facto mail carriers in the Mystery Dungeon spinoff series. Presumably they have waterproof mailbags they carry? Either way, I could totally see Pelipper being the equivalent of carrier pigeons, especially since they can carry more load and travel safely over water. Just, y’know, so long as they can keep from swallowing their parcels whole.
The funniest little detail of making Wingull and Pelliper direct relatives, though, is that seagulls are known to bully and scavenge from pelicans in real life. Pelicans need to situate themselves a bit and drain their pouch to swallow larger catches, since they don’t exactly have the teeth to bite through them. So seagulls will tend to come along and peck at them when they roost, distracting the pelican enough that a wingmate can come along and steal the catch entirely from their open mouth. Cheeky.
Granted, it’s definitely not above animal or Pokémon behavior to antagonize others of their species – it just means that Pelipper have even more reason to shake their wing-fists and get riled up at Those Darned Youths.
Another fun fact: cute lil’ Wingull is one of the few Pokémon we’ve seen actively prey on other Pokémon in recent years. Most of the series’ text has written out references to eating the critters entirely, but Wingull’s Alolan entries make specific reference to it chowing down on Wishiwashi – naturally plentiful as they are.
And if you visit the reef in New Pokémon Snap during the day, you can see one happily carrying a Finneon off to be devoured:
These two are just good designs – quintessential beachside material – and there’s a reason why they’ve appeared natively in every non-remake game in the series since they’ve been introduced. They’re near-ubiquitous, and the closest thing we’ve seen to a Must-Have in a while, and even if I could see them dipping into the Reserve monster list, I’d want to be seeing them more often than not.
Any and all appreciation for Wingull and Pelliper is welcome in the comments!