Thursday, June 2, 2011

An Unfortunate Grackle

Feeding the Blue Jays a little while ago, a peculiar-looking dark bird caught my eye hanging around at the bottom of a cabbage palm. Something about it didn't seem right, and my immediate impression was that the base of the mandible might have been flared, like an Ani's. A Smooth-billed Ani right at my doorstep? Stranger things have been known to happen, I suppose.

But no such luck, for either myself or for the bird. What I had here was a juvenile Common Grackle with a grotesque bill deformity. Tumor-like nodules covered most of both the upper and lower mandibles. Possibly, they grew out of the forehead, too - some of the head feathers looked disheveled.

It was hanging around an adult Common Grackle, which occasionally fed him, so he's still being cared for despite his obvious disadvantages. Whether anyone besides a mother could love that face, I'd be interested to know. 

Poor little guy. If anyone has any information about what condition this is, or what causes it, please let us know in the comments.


  1. Wow, thats gnarly. That looks exactly like avian pox, which I saw a lot of on albatross on Midway. Its a mosquito-borne thing. At least with the albatross, it only affects young birds and may eventually just go away if the birds live that long. But it could be something else.

  2. Thanks for the info, Steve. Just looked up avian pox and may very well have nightmares now. Gruesome stuff - that can't be pleasant to live with. Hopefully it heals on its own, like you said.

  3. Aww, poor little guy! Thanks for the post--hadn't seen anything like that before.

  4. i have a nestling eastern phoebe that has a 'missing' corner of it mouth while the other side is perfectly normal. it has difficulty eating and thats why i havent returned it to the nest it fell out of. it is now appearing that this may be some sort of tumor, nodule,growth that extends along one side of the mouth/beak along it length. it also appears to have trouble swallowing. this is in the southeast US. thanks for the info on avian pox. this growth looks fleshy but the little one is so small. will try for a vet to identify and would like to report it to some group or agency that keeps tabs on these things. any suggestions on who to contact if ti turns out to be a tumor or deformity? (as opposed to a disease)

    1. Hi Deborah. That's very interesting about the phoebe. I'm afraid I don't know about avian pox at all, other than seeing it on this grackle a couple of years ago. If you find out anything more, I'd be interested to know how you handle it, and what the bird's prognosis is. Thanks for writing!