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Killdeer Distracts Predator by Feigning Injury

4-15-13 killdeer IMG_8336

Killdeer arrived back in northern New England last month and have already begun nesting. Being a ground nester, the killdeer has many mammalian predators from which it needs to protect its eggs, including weasels, skunks, opossums and raccoons. Nesting killdeer have a number of responses to predators, which include several different types of distraction displays which draw attention to the bird away from its nest. One of the most common displays is to feign injury by assuming a position which makes the bird appear vulnerable. When a predator approaches, the bird runs away from the nest, crouches with its head low, wings drooping and tail fanned and dragging the ground to display its rufous rump-patch. The predator typically follows, seeing an easy meal, and as soon as it gets too close for the killdeer’s comfort, the killdeer continues to lead it off by alternate flights and sprints.

2 responses

  1. Hi Mary, I can’t quite tell from this great photo, but is the killdeer one of the birds that can see behind itself (to keep an eye on these predators) due to the location of eyes on the side rather than front of the head?

    April 15, 2013 at 11:50 am

    • Hi Craig,
      No, I don’t believe it is. Typically, the killdeer would be looking at the predator over its shoulder, but this one chose not to do so! Great question!

      April 15, 2013 at 11:57 am

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