I noticed an old friend, Stumpy, recently in our backyard in Florida (Englewood area), a white ibis with a broken leg (see photo) that has been foraging periodically in our area for at least three years. You need to understand that this bird cannot stand on its right leg at all, at any time. Indeed you should be able to see from the photograph that the foot is actually turned backwards and rotated from the severity of the break. This is NOT just the usual bird hopping occasionally on one leg as shorebirds will do. This ibis never puts its right leg down; indeed it appears that it cannot do so.
So how is it possible that a wild bird with this severe an injury could survive so long? It is truly amazing and when I first noticed this ibis in our yard years ago I gave it only a few weeks to live and considered whether I should try and catch it to take it to a rehabilitator. The problem was that it could fly normally and was thus virtually uncatchable. So I decided to let nature takes its course. Yet here Stumpy is still apparently healthy and following, albeit somewhat slower, with other ibises as they forage in yards. White ibis as a species are flourishing since they have shown considerable flexability in their feeding habits, adopting new feeding strategies if they work. So you will commonly see them probing vigorously in yards for small critters of all sorts, a behavior that they would not have used hundreds of years ago. Of course they also feed in traditional areas of shallow water in both fresh water and tidal wetlands.
Does this white ibis with a broken leg possess a greater than normal desire to live? Indeed this provides some insight into the will for survival in “lower” creatures. Whatever the reason it provides inspiration for those of us who have less of a disability to cope with. Long may Stumpy the white ibis prosper!
Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL & Galax, VA