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Sanderling stung by Portuguese man o’ war

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  • Sanderling stung by Portuguese man o’ war

    It seems that this month on part of the Texas Upper Coast we are “under the attack” by Portuguese man o' war (Physalia physalis). But stop joking. Here is what I think was a moment when Sanderling was stung after he got man o’ war’s tentacle(s) cling to his leg :

    First he tried to remove the tentacle but unsuccessfully. After wild jump up he flew away with tentacle still clung to his leg.

    A few more photos are here:

    He landed a few times and tried each time for second or two to remove the tentacle, again unsuccessfully only to immediately take off again. After a few moments I lost the sign of him. Next day in the same area I found dead Sanderling - maybe a coincidence.

    But on the same day I also found dead Smithsonian Gull, sick and having problem with balance Ring-billed Gull (have video) and dead Northern Gannet - I never before have seen so many dead and sick animals in this place (not far away from each other) in one day. Well, maybe coincidence. But on the day Sanderling was (probably) stung there were in my rather careful estimate maybe quarter million (or perhaps more) dead man o’ war individuals of all sizes washed ashore just along the whole (about 10 km) stretch of Quintana - Bryan beach (Quintana Island shore facing Gulf). I had no time to check other close islands: Follett’s and Galveston (was too busy with all action on Quintana) but I expect that situation was similar so maybe million or more man o’ war lost their battle and died on this quite small part of the shore. Seems like heavy blow to the population, at least to the part in the Gulf of Mexico. I have no time right now to process videos but scenario was unbelievable - including effects like driving on mine field with these guys popping under tires very loudly all the time. In so many years here I never saw anything like that - probably once in lifetime experience. I asked many native Texans and they never saw anything even close to this number. They usually saw a few at the time, rarely more.

    On the other hand these ‘beasts’ have beautiful colors and shapes:

    As birders around the world must encounter man o’ war from time to time I would love to hear about their experience and stories about man o’ war interactions with birds.

    All the best,


  • #2
    Mark; I've just studied a great many of ye photo's there. I now stand to die a far more informed man.

    Reading books, as a child, I'd always held the impression that these PMOW were At Least two foot long?!


    • #3

      It's the tentacles that are several feet long, not the "sail".