Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Plover with lumps underneath her

This afternoon, when driving back to Robbo from Bowral I spotted a "Spur-winged Plover" ( I give away my age when I use that name) sitting on the ground, close to the road. It was obvious from the lumps under her breast feathers that she was sheltering some freshly hatched chicks underneath her body. It was a "Masked Lapwing" to give it the modern "correct name". Its scientific name is Vanellus miles.

My brother Brendan, who was driving, agreed to turn around and drive back for a closer look. This is what we saw.
The white breast feathers spread out like that, to cover some apparent "lumps" indicate she is shielding several chicks from the storm which was just easing. Note the beads of rain on her back. (Click to enlarge image to see the raindrops on her back, and see also the details of her facial mask).

The male was nearby, watching us nervously (as is usual).
Mum eventually realised that she had to order the chicks out
for, if I were to get out of the car (which I would not do, of course)
the chicks would have to run for safety.
So, either by body language, or more likely a quiet special alarm call
she signalled to the chicks that they must run - to a safer place.
Sorry for the blurred image,
but they were quick and the light was dull (so I had a slow speed setting).

But the image tells a story.
One, two, three - lets go.
Three little chicks made a run for it.

But wait on - somethings wrong!
She is still not moving herself.
There must still be one, asleep or still hiding underneath her.
Here it is - it went out the back way.
Note the spur on the wing of the mother.
That's why they got their "old name".

The breast feathers are still pushed forward
where the chicks had been hiding.

Here is Mum now making her way to a safer distance.
She has two chicks with her.
Here is Dad, already well away from the road,
with the other two chicks.
My Favourite shot.
One of the chicks - showing the beginnings of its mask skin.
They are such cuties, I love them.

I would estimate these chicks as being only 3 or 4 days old.
As with most ground-nesting birds
they can run and feed themselves as soon as their downy feathers
have dried out (from the egg).
That characteristic is called "precocial" (as in precocious).

Unlike birds which nest high off the ground (in a proper "nest")
these birds have a long incubation period, so that the
chicks are highly developed in the egg, before they break free.
The same is true of familiar domesticated birds -
"Chooks" (or Indian Game Fowl) (chickens) and ducklings.


mick said...

A great series of photos Denis, but lucky you were in the car. Those birds have been making life miserable for anyone walking around here recently. They became established here when the sub-division was put in and before houses were built. I think they will stay while there are still a few block left without houses. I only admire them from a distance!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
Yes, they can be very "protective". These ones are comfortable with traffic. I don't know where the nest was, but she had settled the chicks down just 5 metres from a busy road.
There is a bike track, dog-walking track just near the fence in the background of photos showing the male - about 50 metres away.
So they prefer cars to people and dogs.
I have seen them nest on grassy roundabouts in Canberra. They are perfect, as such places get little foot traffic.

Le Loup said...

Good post & good pics. We have often seen masked plover nesting on the side of the dirt road, a bad place to nest! Really open ground where she is easily spotted. But I love hearing the call of the plover.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Le Loup
I agree about hearing the call - especially at night.
Eerie and reassuring at the same time. Gives one a sense of being in the Australian Bush (even if within spitting distance of houses or roads).
Wonderfully well adapted birds.

Red Nomad OZ said...

The old names are sometimes the best ... Great photos! I've only seen chicks once, and certainly kept my distance!

Happy travels!!