|Faking a broken wing|
By Becky Swearingen, MN
I love the prairies, as anyone who follows my adventures knows. Part of the mystery is that nature is not always pretty and not always kind.
I had been watching a Killdeer nest at Talbot Conservation Area for several weeks, alerted to its presence by the adult's broken wing displays. When you get too close, the adult leads you away by hopping along, dragging a wing in a pitiful fashion, until you are some distance away from the nest. It usually will flash its bright tail feathers to be sure you are following, then may fly rapidly away, looking over its shoulder and laughing.
|Changing of the guard, shading the nest in left foreground|
|Parent shading the three eggs|
|Find the chick|
As I was watching it I was sitting in my car and my friend was standing next to the car. The chick then did the oddest thing. It ran very purposefully toward my car and got under a tire and lay down.
|A "tire-d" little chick|
Killdeer parents are very attentive. We waited for several minutes and the parents never returned. I decided to go check on the chick and when I did, I discovered it was dead. I think the parents had determined that this little one was struggling and abandoned it to focus their energies on the two healthier chicks. This one appeared to be smaller and less energetic than the two other chicks.
As I left this area, I stopped by a second Killdeer nest I knew of. That mother had been sitting on three eggs just a few days previously. When I got to her next, I noticed that she was now down to two eggs. Life on the prairies seems so serene, but it is a daily struggle for the animals who inhabit it.
On a happier note, after I had driven around the Lockwood area for a while I decided to stop by Talbot on the way home to check on the Killdeer family. As I mentioned, they last time I saw them the parents had moved them into the taller grass, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to see them. I was so happy when I found them out in the open by the water with the parents. The two surviving chicks were busy exploring their new world.
Killdeer chicks are precocial, meaning that they exit the egg with eyes open and their track shoes on. For more on how this happens and how egg in a nest laid days apart all hatch the same day, see this Birdwatching.com article.