This week’s photo, taken May 17, 2014 at Discovery Park in Seattle, WA, features a KILLDEER, probably the most common plover in North America.
The Killdeer is an interesting shorebird in many ways.
It’s a very attractive bird. It has 2 breast bands, a distinction that can help a bird-watcher separate it from the many other species in the plover family. Its orange-red eye ring is a cool feature, and it also has an orange rump, seen in flight and when executing its “broken-wing” display (more about that shortly).
This bird is named for its “kill-deer” vocalization. Killdeer can be quite noisy, a fact that may not surprise you if you notice that the second part of its scientific name is “vociferus” (characterized by loudness).
If you ever see a Killdeer walking on the ground with what appears to be a broken wing, what you probably are observing is a very clever acting performance. Since Killdeer nest on the ground (often on gravel), they will try to draw a potential predator away from the nest by walking away from the nest while faking a broken wing. The predator is likely to follow the Killdeer, thinking that it’s an injured bird and, therefore, easy prey. Of course, if the predator gets too close, the Killdeer will fly away.
If you spot a Killdeer performing its broken-wing act, give the bird some space. In the mind of the Killdeer, YOU may be the predator that’s getting too close to the nest. Its eggs may be mixed in with small rocks or gravel, so move away carefully, so you don’t step on the eggs.
Be kind to the Killdeer. Otherwise, it will have to raise its voice with you, and you don’t want that to happen.
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