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Killdeer, Master of Distraction

These shorebirds put on a ‘broken-wing act’ to distract predators

Since Killdeer don’t always pick the safest places to lay their eggs, they’ve developed a clever way to protect their young. They use the art of distraction. When it spots a predator close by, the Kildeer parent will pretend it has a broken wing - calling loudly and limping along as it stretches out one wing and fans its tail.

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Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Killdeer, Master of Distraction

Adapted from a script by Frances Wood

This is BirdNote.

[Killdeer calling, a variety of vocalizations]

That’s a Killdeer, one of the most widespread and commonly seen shorebirds in North America. It’s a handsome bird with a brown back and a distinctive pair of black bands across its white breast. You can probably hear why this bird has been nicknamed the “Chattering Plover”.

[Repeat Killdeer calls]

But Killdeer aren’t strictly shorebirds. In fact, they can be found a long way from water. You might spot one nesting on the shoulder of a road, on a golf course, or even on a construction site.

[Repeat Killdeer calls.]

Since Killdeer don’t always pick the safest places to lay their eggs, they’ve developed a clever way to protect their young. They use the art of distraction. When it spots a predator close by, the Kildeer parent will pretend it has a broken wing - calling loudly and limping along as it stretches out one wing and fans its tail.

The predator, thinking it’s spied an easy meal, zeroes in on the parent… and leaves the nest alone.

[Alarm call used during the broken-wing act]

And this technique seems to work! One scientist observed that the broken-wing act distracted potential predators more than 99 percent of the time.

[More Killdeer alarm – the trill]

For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann.

###

Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Mary McCann

Calls of the Killdeer provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by G.A. Keller.

BirdNote’s theme composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 BirdNote   July 2019

ID# 070505KILLKPLU    KILL-01c

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