Saturday, March 28, 2009

Killdeer exhibiting the False Brooding Display

As I was leaving the rookery on Thursday, I noticed movement at the edge of the parking lot near the grass and saw two Killdeer scurry across the pavement. I stopped the car and got out with my camera. I thought I’d use the car door as a blind, but then decided to get back in and drive a little closer and shoot out the window. That was a good move because I was able to get pretty close! 

The male watched me intently (not sure he’s 
the male, but he seemed like the leader of the pair).


Every now and then he would bob up and down like he 
had the hiccoughs. I had read earlier that when a Killdeer 
notices an intruder (me and my car!), it stops to look 
at the intruder and at the same time bobs up and down.


He continued to remain "on alert," eyeing me over his shoulder!


 With every click of the camera, he would rotate his head to face me.

Neither of the couple did the classic Injury-feigning Display where the bird will sort of crouch down or flop around on the ground with what seems to be a broken wing trying to lead the intruder away from the nest, so I guess I wasn’t too much of a threat, but the female did slip into the False Brooding display. At first I thought she was exhibiting some sort of courtship behavior and was encouraging the male because she was sitting on the ground with her rufous rump-patch exposed. However, after reading about the False Brooding Display, I realized that was what she was doing. The False Brooding Display is a distraction display, which like the Injury-feigning Display is designed to get the intruder’s mind off the real nest, thus protecting the eggs or nestlings from predation.

The female hunkered down on the ground like she was 
sitting on a nest and actively showed her rufous rump-patch.


Every now and then she would look over her shoulder 
at me and continue to fluff up those rufous feathers.


Eventually she calmed down and decided I was no 
threat, as she got up and walked around with the male.

The Birds of North America Online has a nice description of the distraction displays.

14 comments:

Bren said...

This is a wonderful collection of photography. I am so happy I stopped by this evening.
Happy Spring!

Kallen305 said...

Very informative post and I love the pictures with the narrative.

I was looking for Killdeer yesterday but had no luck. They are such cute birds!

Laure Ferlita said...

I enjoy your narrative! Love the image of the male with his head cocked as he looks back at you! As always, thanks for sharing, I always learn so much when I visit!

Jayne said...

They are the funniest birds to watch in terms of the lengths they will go to in order to throw off predators! Great captures!

Mary said...

What a fascinating series! Great photos! We so seldom see the orange patch on the rear. I was lucky enough to find one on a nest last year and got treated to a lot of intersting displays :-)

Roy said...

Good shots, Kelly, and an excellent Naturalist lesson! I had a male Redwinged Blackbird do the broken wing trick on me last year out at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. He was on the trail with both wings fanned out and stumbling around in a circle, and there was a young woman ahead of me on the path who couldn't figure out if he was injured or about to attack (I guess that move could look a little threatening if you didn't know what it was). When I explained what he was doing, she was all for going to look for the nest, until I told her his next move would be dive-bombing her if she tried any such thing. Heh, heh! That changed her mind.

Roy said...

Amazing shots Kelly, the car makes a great hide.

The Early Birder said...

Excellent series of photos Kelly with a very informative wildlife narrative. Nice one, FAB

Heather said...

I love Killdeer, I think they are stunning birds. I'm glad you were able to get so close! Those pics are fantastic. BTW, I tried to follow the links, but you have to be a subscriber to BNA to be able to read the article (and I'm not a subscriber).

Phil and Mandy said...

Hi Kelly, they look very similar to our Ringed Plovers in the UK. Phil

Shellmo said...

Great, great photos~! I love how you caught the females brooding display!

Kelly said...

Bren...I stopped by your blog and love all your gardening info. I'll definitely be back to see how your greenhouse is doing!

Kallen...thank you...sort of fits with your observations of mallards today!

Laure...thank you!! It was a lot of fun watching them, and I learned too. I didn't know about the False Brooding display until I researched it!

Jayne...thanks...they were fun to watch!!!

Mary...I'm going to have to keep my eye on these two. I'd like to see their babies hatch out.

Roy....that's funny....I'm sure a dive-bombing red-wing would change anyone's mind! Thanks!

Roy2...thanks! It was easy birding from the car too...just rested the camera on the window and watched!

Thank you very much, FAB! As I told Mary, I'm going to keep my eye on these two. I'd love to see some babies!!

Heather....I forgot you need a subscription to see BNA. I joined a while back because whenever I was researching Google sent me to their pages. I'll be sure to post a different site in the future. Thanks for reminding me!!

Phil...yes...they look like shore birds, but we get them in open fields that border parking lots even.

Thanks, Shelley! It was fun watching and trying to figure out what she was doing!

RuthieJ said...

Cool pictures and story Kelly. I've seen them do the false injury display, but never the false brood display. Now I'll have to start watching the killdeer at work a little closer to see what's going on.

Kelly said...

Thanks, Ruthie! It was interesting to watch...