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Royal Tern with mysterious “conjoined” head on its body flank (1 Viewer)

Mark B Bartosik

Well-known member
Main bird id in photo is clear: HY Royal Tern. But what about mysterious head on its body flank?

Short info. I was taking short series of photos of passing by terns just for documentation. And to be honest I did not notice in the field that one of them had something intriguing on its body flank …

When scanning on the monitor at home taken photos I noticed that one ROYT is showing some abnormalities. I enlarged one photo on the screen and I thought I have tern with, perhaps, tumor growing on its right leg (note that only one leg, left one, is visible in taken photos). I started to check other photos (from only a few taken) and noticed that “leg” has eye! And it looks rather like a small head with some kind of flexible sack (also mysterious) attached in front. I spent probably total of few hours (on and off) staring at these photos and could not decide for sure what is going on. A few possibilities came to my mind but nothing I could be sure is realistic. Well I started to feel as I might be on the way to join “The Men who Stare at Goats” so I quite. It will be interesting to hear if others might have some ideas.

Cheers,

Mark
 

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Sasquatch Fingers

International Man of Leisure
This makes me kind of sad. It looks to me like he ate something with a pointy bit that has ruptured his stomach. I don't think he's long for this world. Eyeballing that... the longer you look, the less clear it becomes. It's very confusing to look at. I think it is a fishing lure.
 

Sasquatch Fingers

International Man of Leisure
Alternately, it may just be a fishing lure that got the hook stuck in his flank when he was flying too low in proximity to a fishing boat for easy prey. The loose, stringy bit on the bottom being where he broke the line in his struggle. Or maybe someone reeled him and and tried to get it loose and settled for cutting the line or cut the line and he escaped before they could get it loose.
 

Mark B Bartosik

Well-known member
First, I know – very late, thank you all for your suggestions. I know very little about fishing lures and even that I also thought about that possibility I could not make my mind. Even after reading your suggestion I would still have doubts for rest of my life. So I take my hat off to both of you. You both were right. One week after first sighting (exactly seven days) I re-found this bird, still alive!!! Here is a link to animation showing how this juvenile tern was able to move its right wing during flight. It is incredible that he/she was able to survive even that parent(s) most likely was still feeding him/her.

https://youtu.be/ShMYIvru7_E

BTW I still do not understand why part of this lure attached to the front was looking like a flexible sack week earlier. Perhaps lure expert can explain that …

All the best,

Mark
 

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