Another one from the annals of weird deaths. Believe it or don’t, wading birds sometimes get their toes or bill-tips caught in bivalve shells, they remain trapped, and they then drown when the tide comes in. Here is rare photographic evidence of this behaviour…
The bird is an adult American oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus [a live one is shown below, by Bear Golden Retriever, from wikipedia*], discovered on Cape Island, South Carolina, in June 1939. William Baldwin found and photographed the specimen, and later published it in The Auk (Baldwin 1946).
The bird had obviously gotten its bill tip caught between the valves of a Hardshelled clam Mercenaria mercenaria and it then drowned while caught. Scavenging crabs later removed much of the soft tissue from the neck. Baldwin (1946) reported that he’d heard of cases from local people where oystercatchers had died in similar fashion after getting their toes caught, but the bird killed ‘by’ the clam was the only case he had direct experience with. I haven’t heard of any other examples of this sort of thing and wonder if there are more out there in the literature.
* What is it with the eyes of certain waders (and pigeons) – what is that extra little blob they have anteroventral to the pupil?
Incidentally, I’ve only just learnt that the Hardshelled clam is also known as the Quahog – ha! I had no idea; this explains a lot.
For previous Tet Zoo articles on weird deaths see…
- Meteoroid vs goose… again
- Yet another bizarre and unfortunate giraffe death
- The ‘python bites fence’ photo
- The tangled mammoths
- Passerine birds fight dirty, a la Velociraptor
- Death by lightning for giraffes, elephants, sheep and cows
- Roadrunner tries to eat horned lizard. Splits neck open. Dies.
- Snake 195 mm long eats centipede 140 mm long. Centipede too big. Snake dies.
- Perentie tries to swallow echidna. Echidna too spiky, Perentie gets horribly injured. Dies.
- Heron tries to swallow giant lamprey. Chokes. Dies. Second heron tries same trick. Also chokes. Also dies.
Ref – –
Baldwin, W. P. (1946). Clam catches oyster-catcher. The Auk, 63, 589-589 [page number repeated because research blogging won't let me enter single-page papers and retain page numbering]