[Mystery bird] newly hatched Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus, photographed at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Anahuac, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]
Image: Joseph Kennedy, 1 June 2010 [larger view].
Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope with TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/640s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.
Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.
This cute little bird was or will be, at some point during its youth, protected by a spectacular display by one of its parents. Can you describe what behavior the parents engage in to protect this young bird from harm?
Killdeer parents use two different methods to protect their nests, eggs and chicks. In the case of large grazing animals that unintentionally approach, one or both adult birds will run with outstretched wings or fly directly toward the animal if it appears likely to step into a nest or on a chick. Once the intruder has been turned away, the Killdeer will allow it to graze peacefully nearby.
In the case of a predator, the adult birds will fly around and call loudly. If that doesn’t repel the intruder, one of the parents will then perform a distraction display, commonly called a broken-wing act or injury feigning. The bird crouches on the ground with one wing spread and hanging as though broken. It flops about in a piteous manner, at the same time crying kill-dee-dee-ee as though in mortal pain. The intruder is drawn towards the seemingly wounded or helpless bird, which always manages to move away, decoying the intruder farther and farther from its nest containing eggs or young birds. When the enemy is well away from its intended prey, the adult Killdeer miraculously recovers and flies away. During this display, the young will either stay perfectly still or will scatter in all directions. In either case, they will be almost impossible to find.