Bherwerre Beach forms the southern coastal boundary of Booderee National Park NSW at the park’s western end. The beach has a very slight curve over its 7 kilometre length and for a surf beach it shelves gently, exposing larger than usual areas of sand at low tide.
When we arrived at the eastern end of the beach, eight Australian Pied Oystercatchers (Haematopus longirostris) were immediately obvious as they probed the sand for food at low tide. Among the APO’s three small shorebirds grabbed my attention, however they were just too far away to be identified, so I started walking along the beach towards them.
They kept moving with short flights along the beach. After the birds made three flights it was obvious I was not going to get close enough for an ID – given their jizz I would say they were most likely Sanderling - so I turned and started walking back along the beach checking the APO’s for flags as I went.
No flags were seen until the last bird which I noticed was walking with a pronounced limp. The photos revealed this was APO EX and the flagged leg was missing a foot.
Please click on photos to enlarge.
With one foot missing, EX ‘s shorter leg caused a pronounced limp.
The impaired leg was not stopping EX from foraging.
EX looked healthy and plump enough and could stand briefly on the stump of the leg.
By whatever means EX lost the foot, I suspect discarded fishing line would be a strong contender for this injury, I can imagine it would have been a painful time while it healed and reached the point where it could bear weight.
APO EX was reported to the Australasian Wader Studies Group.
AWSG advised APO EX was banded and flagged on 24/04/2012 at age 2 on Roussac’s Farm near Foster, Corner Inlet. The bird was missing its right foot when banded so it has survived without a foot for over 5 years since then. APO’s are tough and resourceful birds able to exploit several habitat types, even grassy paddocks and golf courses, which together with their size and confident natures helps explain their success as a species.
There have been 3 re-sightings of EX since banding, all on the NSW south coast, 2 in 2016 and my sighting in 2017.