Tiny Killdeer Fluffballs

A couple weeks ago I posted about a Killdeer nest in the school’s butterfly garden. Well, sometime within the last twenty-four hours, the chicks hatched, so this afternoon once I finished up my cleaning and packing I headed to the garden to snap a few last photos.

Family portrait - mom with two of the four chicks.
Family portrait – mom with two of the four chicks.

There are basically two types of bird babies: altricial and precocial. Altricial chicks are those born naked and helpless, needing constant parental care, like these guys:

Photo by Qatar&Me, via Wikimedia Commons.

Not Killdeer chicks! These babies are precocial, born fluffy and ready to run – think “precocious.” And they are cuuuuuuuute. Their markings are very similar to adults, except that chicks only have one dark band across their chest instead of two.

013 (1024x687)007 (1024x685)I may be leaving tomorrow, but life here goes on – a new generation of baby birds growing up, more wildflowers coming into bloom, fields buzzing with insects. Goodbye, Wisconsin. It’s been an education.

KillDEER! KillDEER! KillDEER!

Who doesn’t love Killdeer? These bold birds are perhaps the most habituated to humans of any North American plover, nesting in almost any open area. This spring a pair have nested in the corner of one of the wildflower beds in the school garden.

008

010Even though they nest on the ground right out in the open, the nests can be surprisingly hard to spot – the eggs are very well camouflaged! If you do approach a Killdeer nest, the parents will try to lead you away with a distraction display, pretending to drag broken wings to make themselves look like easy targets for predators. That’s what the bird below was doing.

011I like this photo because you can see the bird’s eyes even though you’re looking directly at the back of its head. Prey birds like this can have an almost 360° field of vision.

I’ll try to get some more photos once the eggs hatch. Killdeer chicks are cuuuuuuuute. Tiny little plover fluffballs!