The minute I saw this bird in the net, I knew something wasn’t right. Closer inspection showed that, while the bird appears to have two horribly broken and twisted legs, they are in fact not broken at all, and probably never were.
There was no sign of injury, and no fresh breaks. The bird’s ‘knees’ were twisted, so that the legs were splayed outwards. This was probably a developmental problem, rather than an injury. When I used to rehabilitate birds, I would see similar splayed development in birds that people had ‘rescued’ and fed poor diets – enough to keep the bird alive, but not enough nutrition for proper growth. Without laboratory testing, it would be impossible to say what caused this bird’s legs to splay. In spite of its leg problems, the bird was otherwise healthy, and obviously able to survive on its own.
We opted not to band this one, not wanting to add any weight to already taxed legs. After close examination and a couple of photographs, the bird was released. We could not imagine how it managed to perch, but it did, landing in the sycamore tree near the Observatory. It roused its feathers and flew away. Life is sometimes hard, but good.