Sunday, May 3, 2020

Noisy Neighbor, Protective Parent

In a comment on my last post, reader Anathema Device mentioned the plovers that play chicken with the cars in the neighborhood. The timing of the comment was fortuitous, because I've got plover content... After last night's shift change, I walked through the parking lot so I could close off the exit, and while walking on a median, I was chided by a loud, irate parent. Yep, it's perhaps my favorite season, killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) season, and the local killdeer had scraped out their comically inept nest on the median. Immediately, I went into 'killdeer nest detection' mode, and inched along, bearing the angry chattering, until I'd located the precious eggs.

When dawn arrived, I located two traffic cones in order to mark the location the nest, which as you can see, is a perfunctory affair:

Sure, enough, there were the typical four perfect eggs, camouflaged as rocks, and nestled between two exposed tree roots:

Killdeer are famous for their 'broken wing' behavior, feigning injury to lure predators from their nests. When dealing with large herbivores, who pose no threat to an adult bird, but a terrible, though inadvertent, trampling hazard to a nest, the birds straight up charge and stand their ground, seemingly fearless. Since I wasn't making any threatening overtures, but was perilously close to the nest as I flanked it with the cones, this brave bird remained at my feet, so close that the red rims of its eyes are visible in this photograph:

If all goes well, and I'm looking at YOU, local raccoon population, we'll have four adorable, noisy fuzzballs on stilts running around the site in a month and a half or so.


Anathema Device said...

Those are awesome photos. I didn't realise killdeer were plovers - I'd seen the name before, but masked plover goes for the Phantom of the Opera vibe instead.

They don't make proper nests because the (adorable!) chicks are precocial, so they don't need to stay in the nest after hatching. The parents only need to point out food and provide protection - and how.

I think, in Australia, only the magpies are fiercer defenders of their brood - they're notorious for attacking walkers and bikers, and trees are marked off in the breeding season where the particularly ferocious parents live. Magpies have a pretty good success rate in rearing chicks, and I imagine it's the same for plovers.

Unfortunately, some of our lovely citizens are more worried about the noise and attacks plovers make, than the reasons for it, and a quick search will find plenty of advice on removing them and their eggs (illegal), and services who will do it for you. Personally I love their eerie call, and seeing baby plovers - if you can spot them, because their camouflage is damn near perfect - is a delight. I'm hoping you'll post pictures of the fuzzballs when they hatch.

We're so lucky to have wildlife in our urban areas. Why not treasure it?

Anathema Device said...

Ugh, I managed to manglae a sentence. Should read:

"I'd seen the name before, but never seen a description. What a pretty bird. Most of the plovers are loverly, although the masked plover goes for the Phantom of the Opera vibe instead."

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

I personally don't know anyone who isn't fiercely protective of these birds. People take an effort to cordon off nests that are close to trafficked areas.

On the other hand, I've read of a subset of yahoos, mainly down South, who are in a perpetual rage over ATV restrictions on beaches with piping plover nesting areas. These are some of the most selfish jerks I've ever heard of.

Anathema Device said...

"a subset of yahoos, mainly down South, who are in a perpetual rage"

Yeah, there's a solid minority of your countrymen who must be on the highest grade of anti-hypertensives, given how worked up and furious they are about every damn thing. Unfortunately, we have more than a few of these volcanic idiots over here too.

They need more bromide in their tea, and a good spanking. Running over nesting birds must be one of the lowest acts a person can commit.

applequeen said...

We had Killdeers in our yard in Clarence Center, NY back in the 1960's. I loved their "broken wing" act. They were only there until the grass came in & then they were gone. But while we had a yard of small stones, they loved to make their nests in the stony field where our new house was built.

I live in the City of Buffalo now & recently I heard the cry of a Killdeer & I was wondering where they could be nesting. Maybe in the stones along the railroad tracks nearby? I love their cry. I hadn't heard it in many years.