Wounded Dunlin

A few days ago Idaho-birder Cheryl Huizinga texted me to say there was a Dunlin at Blacks Creek Reservoir, a species Anna and I needed to see in Idaho. We drove up after work and easily found the bird right where Cheryl said it had been. This Dunlin was in its beautiful breeding plumage and was a great subject to photograph, letting me get within a few feet of it as it foraged along the lake edge alongside a Least Sandpiper. As I was taking photos of the bird, I realized its bill had an interesting injury; right where its upper mandible met its forehead the bill was missing a little chip. Soon the bird climbed up out of the water and stood on a rock and then I was able to see another injury; the bird was missing the end of its toe on its right foot! This missing-toe injury is a common wound I see among shorebirds, in fact almost every Ruddy Turnstone I have ever photographed has had at least one missing toe. However a bill injury I have only seen one other time in a shorebird; a Whimbrel I captured last spring had a broken bit of its upper mandible that had apparently re-healed. Anna and I tried to think of what could have caused the injury on this Dunlin….perhaps it ran into something, maybe a birth-defect…..let me know what you think!

Dunlin; note chip missing out of the top of the bill near the bird's forehead

Dunlin; note missing end of the center toe on right foot

Least Sandpiper; the Dunlin's little buddy!