Thursday, May 17, 2012

Clever Birds

The other day a colleague showed me a Killdeer nest with four eggs near the campus tennis courts. Later I went back to photograph the nest and had a very hard time finding it, even though it is on a stretch of completely open ground and I had made careful mental notes about its location.

When I reached the nest and took a photo, a pair of adult Killdeer appeared from nowhere and stood watching me. One went scuttling away along the tennis court fence. I didn't move and so the other Killdeer decided to distract me. It started spreading its tail and squawking in apparent distress. "Look at me. I'm injured. You could catch me easily."

It hobbled away. "Oh, look. One of my wings is broken."

I followed. "Oh, no. Now my other wing is broken."

"Now I'm exhausted and totally defenceless."

Once I was a safe distance from the nest, the bird miraculously recovered from its injuries and flew off, happy in the knowledge that it had fooled a dangerous predator.

I'll keep an eye on the nest until the eggs hatch - but I'll do so from a distance so as not to stress the parents any further.


Matthew Sim said...

Great post! Yesterday, I observed 3 small shorebirds for a couple minutes, not knowing what they were. As I got closer, a pair of Killdeer became very agitated and as a I got a little closer, they started to do the broken wing display. I then managed to put 2 and 2 together to realize that the 3 shorebirds were in fact fledgling Killdeer.

Jeff said...

Thanks, Matthew. It's always an interesting thing to see, isn't it? I'm still always amazed by how difficult it is to see their nests, even though they're right out in the open. said...

Really liked your photos, Jeff! Great way to illustrate life strategies and make them relatable in such a visible way. What other ground nesting birds have you observed in the Houston/Galveston area?

Jeff said...

Thanks, avocett. I haven't seen any other ground nesters. Plenty of Purple Martins at the college, though, plus our W Kingbirds are starting to nest in the roof of the basketball court. said...

Great tip on the Western Kingbirds, Jeff! It's been several years since I've seen one, and I'd love to spot a nest. The purple martin photos were lovely. People are always asking me about the effectiveness of those plastic houses -- nice to see them in action!