Sick Sanderling

Richard Bradus

While enjoying a beautiful walk before noon along the north waterfront I came across a lone sanderling at the Golden Gate Yacht Club harbor that was acting strangely. I first saw it foraging atop a seaweed covered concrete block, wobbling as it rapidly walked back and forth (like doing a two-step). At first I though it was some kind of foraging behavior to flush insects, but when it flew across to the concrete walkway and continued its tottering it was clear that something was wrong. Interestingly, it had no trouble trotting straight ahead (as we usually see Sanderlings do), but otherwise it continued to wobble back and forth as it pecked at gull droppings and other tidbits in its path.

With the marked change to warm weather, could this be toxic algae poisoning? As someone walking by observed, it looked like it was drunk - but I doubt this was a St. Paddy's day aftermath.

Lots of human activity, quite a few small crabs out on the rocks, but not much other avian activity, though I did see my FOS Rough-winged Swallows checking out the rigging on a couple of the moored boats.


Richard Bradus
San Francisco

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