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Photo Submission

Submitted By

Crystal Stanley

Seguin, TX, USA


I have observed this female Great-tailed Grackle for many hours over several days this past week, often with a telephoto lens, and I’ve not seen even a peek of a second leg. If it’s injured, she keeps it tightly tucked in her plumage, but it seems to be missing. She gets around just fine, eats, flies, hops up onto the bird bath for a drink. Today she even tried to displace another female Grackle from the feeding area. She also has lighter colors along her eyebrows than what I see on the other local female Grackles. Though she falls over quite a bit while hopping around, she seems healthy & I am curious if the missing leg is due to an injury or if it could be congenital. I have videos of her if it would be of any interest.



Hopscotch, The Grackle With One Leg

9 replies on “Hopscotch, the Grackle with One Leg”

Julianna says:

Cute little girl! I am happy she is doing so well. I think great tail grackles are so beautiful, both males and females; and I love all the different sounds that they make–very interesting and under-appreciated birds, I think.

Texas Bird Family says:

I agree! Most people hate grackles but they are so nice!

Mike says:

I’ve always been curious about this because I’ve seen it often over the years, and seeing another one-legged grackle today led me on the search that presented your post. My dad theorized that this is a genetic deformity that keeps getting passed along because it doesn’t seem to be related to any deficiency. Since birds have no vanity, and there doesn’t seem to be anything “wrong” with the birds that have only one leg, then the gene keeps getting passed on. I feel like I’ve seen it more often lately which leaves me to wonder if birds like this are increasing in number, and could eventually make up the entire population. Could the grackle some day be known as the one-legged grackle because through the prevalence of a deformity they then no longer grow both legs? I hope some ornithologist out there is researching this. 🙂

Holly Grant, Project Assistant says:

Hi Mike, The majority of the time, a missing leg is simply due to a successful encounter with a predator, or an accident (getting a leg stuck somewhere). These instances are far more common then genetic mutations. As long as the birds are eating and able to fly normally, you’re right, it shouldn’t affect them too much. If a genetic deformity were to be the cause something like this, it would mean quite a lot of conditions would have to be just right in order for it to be something that could spread across the entire population (i.e. the gene would need to be dominant, there would need to be thousands and thousands of generations, the trait would need to be advantageous to spread widely – otherwise there’s no impetus for it to be passed on, etc.) and each of those conditions has the odds stacked against them.

Tom says:

I see a bunch that are only missing a foot (claw?).
I figured they were probably lost due to fights with the other birds over food. Perhaps they get bitten and it gets infected and then they later bite it off themselves to survive the infection. I haven’t seen it happen like this, but the way they fight each other over food it makes sense to me.
Also most of the ones missing a foot don’t have many or any tail feathers, probably from the other birds picking on them to eliminate the competition for food.

Ava Johnson says:

Most likely it is an injury caused by predators, or them getting their feet stuck in things.

Valerie Anne Cayce says:

I see a black blue headed grackle hopping on one leg the other obviously hurt. He seems fine. Eats and flys.

Char says:

I watched one bite his leg off so I believe it’s self inflicted. Is there a medical issue happening? I’ve seen three this way in one day in the same area.

Deb Richard says:

I am currently feeding a one legged grackle. He/she seems to get around fine. I’m glad I found this page. It was worrying me. How do you tell if it’s female or male….suppose I could google lol.

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