Legless Oystercatchers

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Legless Oystercatchers
From: Chris Melrose <>
Date: Tue, 26 Feb 2013 01:50:54 +1100
Dear All
I would agree with the premise of fishing line being the culprit for limb loss 
in oyster catchers. We had a neighbourhood Magpie that lost its foot because it 
had gotten entangled with plastic sewing thread that came off clothing on the 
drying line. So whatever you do, if there is a loose bit of thread on your 
clothing, don't rip it off and leave it on the ground. I was most distressed to 
know I had caused such an injury. 

Christine Melrose

On 25/02/2013, at 23:20, "SeanDooley" <> wrote:

> Hi David, Mike, Greg et al,
> I am not really wishing to comment too much on the wader banding debate as
> such, I would like to bring this issue back to something that Mike Carter
> raised in his initial response to David Clark's email- and that is that I am
> convinced that it is possible and quite likely that fishing line entaglement
> does cause oystercatchers to lose their legs. 
> I suspect that in some ways, oystercatchers are more resilient to limb loss
> than other birds, for as Mike points out, bivalves closing on their legs is
> an occupational hazard for oystercatchers. But I know for a fact that
> fishing line can amputate the lower legs of oystercatchers as a friend of
> mine, Bill King, has photographic evidence of a Sooty Oystercatcher at
> Rickett's Point near where I live in Melbourne's Bayside. He is apparently
> soon to publish his shots in an article for ABC online. 
> The shots of the bird were taken six months apart and in the first you can
> see that the leg is terribly swollen around the knee (ankle) joint. Looking
> closely, you can see that the cause of the swelling is the fishing line that
> is wrapped around that leg. Six months later and almost certainly the same
> bird, and the leg is gone, cut off at exactly the same point. 
> Around the same time there was another Sooty Oystercatcher with a leg
> missing (one bird had the left leg missing, the other the right). I can't
> vouch for that individual but it wouldn't suprise me if the cause wasn't the
> same.  
> I know that one individual oystercatcher is only anecdotal but it
> definintely shows it does happen. Also, I have been collecting a rather sad
> and macabre dossier of photos of birds that have been injured by
> recreational fishing debris as part of a possible story for Australian
> Birdlife. It is not just the hooks and discarded fishing nets that do damage
> to marine and coastal birds. The range of distressing shots that I have seen
> of many species found strangled, amputated or infected by fishing line that
> they have been entangled in is staggering. It is across many species of
> almost any family of birds that use our inshore waters. One of the problems
> with publishing is that the images are unrelenting gruesome and upsetting. 
> Unfortunately this is an issue that is only going to get worse as more and
> more recreational fishers take to our waters. I am assuming the source of
> most inshore entanglements is recreational and not professional fishing- I
> shudder to think what happens in pelagic waters. (Well I guess we do know,
> with long line fishing at least.)  I say unfortunate not just for the birds
> involved but also because it will end up pitting thosewho care about birds
> against yet another recreational group who will see us as a bunch of fun
> stoppers. I know that the lot of people trying to protect beach nesting
> birds from dogs off lead is one that has this year alone, led to verbal
> abuse and intimidation of volunteers, vandalism of conservation property and
> assault. And duck season is yet to begin...
> Another sad fact in the case of this Sooty Oystercatcher is that Rickett's
> Point is a marine sanctuary where fishing is not allowed. There are about
> six Sooties that move up and down this section of Port Phillip, only a
> fraction of which is protected. But even if they stayed within the tiny
> confines of Rickett's there is nothing to stop discarded line from washing
> ashore. 
> A very sad and depressing state of affairs all round I would suggest. 
> You may resume your wader banding arguments. 
> Sean Dooley
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