Saturday, May 31, 2008

Vociferous indeed (and not too bright).

I walk out of an old orchard at Terra Nova into several acres that have recently been graded, part of the rejuvenation of a historical slough that had been buried by early settlers. The watercourse has been re-established, but the surounding land is raw and exposed, with new plantings dotted along the gentle slope. From far beyond my vision a killdeer, Charadrius vociferus, starts crying maniacally. So, naturally, I look for it.
Histrionics, somewhere in there.

Finally I see it because it is running back and forth. What, you want me to come closer? I’m really not headed in that direction. I’m headed for the boardwalk that crosses the reborn slough. I’m going to the marsh to look for wrens.

Not to be ignored, the bird comes at me, sort of. It flies in an arc and makes a skittering landing behind me.

Okay, I’ll play along. You lure me away from your eggs and I’ll pretend I want to eat you. By the way, if you hadn’t made a peep I wouldn’t have had a clue that you or your nest were here in the first place. It took me at least a minute to spot you as you screamed and ran around.

The bird takes off then lands far away. In the distance it does the feigning routine often described as pretending to have a broken wing. That’s not what they do. They feign being sucked into the ground by a strange force and they flash their orange rump patch.

Faraway feint. The big eye is always on me.


But I only take three steps before the bird flies again. I hadn’t gotten within a hundred yards.

Look, lets get this right. I’m the dim-witted, gullible, slow-moving predator and you are the crafty, evasive bird. It’s a classic Aesopian arrangement and I should end up on my face in the dirt, wondering where yummy bird went. But you don’t let me get close enough even for a photo with a 300 mm lens, let alone a lunge at your tantalizing backside.

When I was a kid we would play hockey on the paved half of a church parking lot. Killdeers nested on the unpaved half and would do it right, let us get within about twenty feet --and I am certain we were far more fleet-footed than I am now, and, armed with hockey sticks, potentially far more dangerous. Those birds were great feigners.


Heightening the hysteria, bird’s mate joins in. Both are screaming like mad, neither letting me get within a football field.




We play for a few minutes. I walk back and forth pretending to be a predator (and trying to take a decent photo) while they continue to feign and fly, all the while screaming and always so far away that they are accomplishing little more than wasting a lot of energy. So seeya later, birds. I have an appointment with a Marsh Wren. Good luck with the nest. Oh, and a word of advice: Know your enemy. There’s enough pointless hysteria in the world.

1 comment:

Cicero Sings said...

Yes, silly birds! They should, in deed, learn to know their enemy !!!