Mom on One Foot

Western Gull mom (Larus occidentalis) with chick. Mom’s right foot is injured, toes missing.

At the western end of the same breakwater where I filmed a gull nest (“Gull Babies,” Jun 19 2022) there is another brood of Western Gull chicks, a few days older. They had a more sheltered location behind an electrical junction box and a post holding the navigational light at the end of the breakwater. It looks like there were three of this clutch as well, although I could not get unobstructed views of all three, and on my most recent visit I saw only one. The mom of these young ones has a disability, as the video shows. Her right foot is gone; she has no toes and cannot stand on both legs. Most birds are quite capable of standing on one leg, so it isn’t obvious how the loss of one foot interferes with her parenting. There is (or was, two days earlier) a father whose role is to bring food. Maybe this gull mother agrees with Frida Kahlo’s expression, Pies para qué los quiero si tengo alas para volar — Feet, why do I want them if I have wings to fly. (Thanks to Peter Rauch for the Kahlo reference, commenting on an artwork by a Frida fan.)

Note, incidentally, in the video, the disrepair of the electrical cable. It’s a wonder that the navigational lights still work, if they do.

The probable Dad, with two good legs, of the clutch of gulls at the extreme west end of the breakwater, two days before the video above.

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