Monday, July 9, 2007

Why Killdeer Won't Rule the World

 For those of you unfamiliar, the killdeer is an upland shorebird which is known for its "broken wing" impression, which draws intruders away from the nest. They have little stilts for legs and a distinctive cry that sounds guessed it... "kill deer."  Nests are only a slight depression in a gravel area.  Consider that both the long driveway to the house and the drive to the kennel are both gravel, which seem to have attracted the annual nesting attention of a family of killdeer.  They have 3-5 babies normally; our family has three.  When they emerge from the nest they look like cotton balls on toothpicks. Teeny balls of fluff running around, under the guidance of their mother who dilegently tries to lure vehicles, dogs and ATV's away from her youngsters.  I often see two adults, so both mom and dad must be in attendance, though I don't know if that is common or not.  Cute as they may be, their fondness for gravel does not seem to make evolutionary sense to me.  Plus, they elect NOT to run to cover when faced with a one ton predator on wheels, and instead run as fast as their little legs can carry them, straight up the gravel road. At any moment they could run to safety but they do not.  I, of course, defer and crawl along behind them rather than leave them flattened in the dirt, and I worry that one suicidal fluff will dart under my wheels.  So far they have not, and I count their little heads every day to see if they have survived.  It amazes me that they have, as we have roaming barn cats in the area and I have seen a baby run onto the county highway before being herded back my momma.  Only in a place where we have the time to wait for baby birds could they possibly exist and reproduce, which explains why you don't see killdeer in the city.  Killdeer will never rule a world in a hurry.

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