Beatnik Birding: The Limp-legged Surfbird
by Bryce W. Robinson
A few days ago Caitlin Davis and I took a walk along the beach near Santa Monica looking for some spring migrants and remaining winter residents. It was a fairly productive walk with Brandt’s Cormorant, Red-throated Loon, Whimbrel, Western and Clark’s Grebe, Glaucous-winged Gull and more. The highlight for me was a pair of Surfbirds, one of which had a bum leg. The birds leg was lame, and it travelled about the beach without skipping a beat by hopping. It kept up with its compatriot, and seemed lively and healthy.
I was impressed that the bird was healthy, given that it lacked one leg. I appreciate the reminder of the adaptability that is common in nature. Of course, if one cannot adapt to maladies or changing conditions, one dies. It is nice to see a success story every once in a while.
It’s amazing how adaptable birds can be. There’s a California Gull on the island with one leg that sticks straight out behind it. The leg looks normal anatomically but it’s useless. I’ve noticed this gull several times and it seems to be thriving. I’ve seen other similar examples too.
At times birds seem so tough but at other times so very fragile.
Well put Ron. It’s neat to see the birds that somehow make it, but of course, I am sure there are many that don’t.
Bryce, I’ve also seen the gull that Ron mentioned but I have seen lame birds the most often in the shorebirds I photographed in Florida while I lived there. There were many times I could tell that the injury was caused by fishing line and my images of them have been used in many programs to help educate people about the dangers of leaving fishing line laying around.
Fishing line… makes sense, but is very disheartening. In the least, it is great to see that this bird is able to live with its malady. I think every fishing license should be given on the stipulation that they learn some fishing ethics.
Me too Bryce.
It always warms my heart when I see a bird with an injury doing well and adapting to its limitations
I have seen so many lame birds throughout the years. it’s amazing how well they can adapt to their environment! I caught a bird once that was missing it’s entire upper mandible and was fatter than ever!
That is nuts!