Sunday, 20 May 2012

Killdeer Chicks

Killdeer Chicks
Yesterday I went for a walk with the camera in tow, as talk was spreading around Melville of killdeer chick sitings! Sure enough as I approached the road to the beach, I heard the distinctive cry of the female shorebird and she landed surprisingly close to me on the gravel - a sign that the little ones must be close by!

It took me a while to see them and get the camera focused on them as they blend in so well with the colours in the ditch, but I managed to capture these cute pictures of the babies exploring Melville!

All four chicks were close to their mama, pecking the ground and scooting around on their little oversized legs. I did a bit of research and found that killdeer chicks, like chickens or ducks are Precocial nestlings. Precocial coming from the Latin derivative of "ripened beforehand" (Wikipedia), means that these types of chicks will spend more time than their counterpart hatchlings (such as robins, blue jays), developing in the embryo and are ready to explore the world on their own as soon as their feathers dry after hatching. They only require their parents for the first couple of weeks after being born for protection from predators, as they will soon learn to fly and spend the summer on their own.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides another great source for more reading on the killdeer and their nesting patterns. Because of the long incubation period of the chicks, the eggs are used to their full nutritional value by the young and then carefully discarded by the adults to disguise that a nest had ever been present.

Female and her young

"Broken-wing" technique
Of course as I approached the young to capture some pictures, mama tried to steer me away, allowing me to capture the classic shot of her "broken-wing" distraction method!
Papa was close by as well, keeping a distant watch over his family!

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