Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cold Enough to Freeze the Toes off a Turnstone


This turnstone that had lost all its toes on both feet was running around on the beach at Seaburn last weekend. It had no toes on either foot, which leads me to wonder whether it had hatched like that and that the defect might be a genetically-controlled developmental abnormality, rather than the result of an accident. It didn't seem to inhibit the bird's movement at all, although moving around on slippery rocks to flip stones over might have been a challenge. Check out the distinctive footprints.........

7 comments:

  1. Phil, some twenty years ago I saw a Mallard like this and later found it's feet frozen to the snow. I suspect a similar fate may have befallen this wee mite. They come out of relatively warm water onto snow at minus ten and stick fast. Only takes a fox to come along and the feet are left behind. Could be similar to lizards and tails though from my experience with geese and turkeys I suspect birds feet are more securely attached. well spotted.

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  2. I think you are mostly likely right Adrian. It has been cold enough for shallow rock pools to freeze and its legs might well have frozen into the ice when it was roosting at night........ The heat-exchange system in wading birds' legs would mean that their foot temperature will always be pretty low anyway.

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  3. Thats really interesting. I wonder how long this bird has been in that condition and how long it might survive?

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  4. Hi Phil, I guess this would be a major problem for a perching bird, but maybe less so for a wader that spends its time on the ground along the tideline. It looked pretty perky and well fed, so it might survive for quite a while. The wounds did seem to have callused over.

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  5. A turnstone with a club-foot has returned to scavenge from the fishermen on Deal pier for about six years now, and is affectionately known as Stumpy by them.
    At least, it is assumed that it's the same bird - perhaps it's a common affliction, and the pier is a common solution?

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  6. That's interesting Kingsdowner, maybe turnstones are martyrs to foot problems?

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  7. Awww bless him. I'm glad his disability doesn't seem to be affecting his survival.

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