Hello! Most of my posts take place around San Diego County, (Mostly Lake Murray) unless otherwise noted.
For more posts and photos, I also post on Hubpages, a site that is a bit different than others. Thanks!: Shorebirdie on Hubpages

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Killdeers Strike Back

Crows started getting into large groups in response to the invasion of the grackles at Lake Murray

Yesterday was the last day I could visit the lake before the 4th of July. I wanted to check to see if any nests were in danger so that I could possibly report them to park officials to see if anything could be done to protect them before the holiday. During the 4th of July, certain areas of the lakeshore is packed with people and their lawnchairs. There are areas that will be so full of people that there will be no open spaces at all. That would mean that any killdeers nests would be destroyed. But, I didn't find any killdeers, or any other birds, in danger of having trampled nests.

M4 lives in the area where the fireworks will actually be shot off. I checked on him and found Bo to be back in the area. I haven't seen her in some time, but M4 always seemed to be around. There were also two other killdeer that were only about 3/4 the size of Bo and M4 which may indicate that they are about 4 to 6 weeks old. They were about the size of "Little Male" when I first encountered him. One was a male and one was a female. M4 didn't seem to have any problem with these two sharing the area and made no aggressive moves towards them. In fact, when M4 got really annoyed by me, he left the area only to be followed by the two smaller ones, who were very nervous of people. Bo stayed behind and watched me.

M4 (Left) and Bo (center right)

The "young" couple

M4 on the left, Bo on the right, and young killdeer in the middle

Could they possibly be his offspring?

In the baseball field, all seemed fine, at first. The male and female were there, but the gate was locked, so I couldn't go see them up close. I shot some photos of them over a low fence on one side and left.

Ballpark female. Looks a lot like F3, but not exactly

Ballpark male

After I had finished visiting M4 and he and the other two flew away (I assume to the other side of his territory), I heard some territorial fighting on the ballpark. I went over there to check and accidentally bothered 5 crows that were eating some food outside the ballpark fence and they flew to near where the killdeer were "arguing".

At this point, I couldn't use my camera as to get close enough to do so would have changed the circumstances and behavior of the parties involved. Also, there was a high chain-link fence from where I was watching and the photos wouldn't have come out well. I could have gone over to the other side with the shorter fence, but that may have caused a distraction to the killdeer and they could have gotten hurt.

At first, the killdeer went on with their displays and the crows just stood by and watched. I don't know if the two intruders were the young killdeer I just saw or two other ones. They looked fully grown, so they were probably different. I assume they were a male or a female. The resident male displayed with his dips and flashing tail feathers. The male killdeer were very vocal with their kill-dee singing while the females stood nearby.

Crows don't like noisy killdeer so while the killdeer was distracted with their fighting, the crows started acting like they were going to grab them by wobbely flying over, slowing down, and just barely missing (crows are mostly scavengers and do not hunt, so they're not equipped to pounce on prey like a hawk. Or, they could have been doing this on purpose to scare the killdeer or chase them away).

Of course, the killdeer just flew out of the way and continued on with their territorial dispute. But, the crows didn't give up and one after one, they continued to make attacks at the killdeer. One of the intruders left, the other was chased around pretty good, but I didn't see him leave (I did check the field as much as I could and didn't see any hurt of dead killdeer, so he/she must have left). One crow chased the resident male for a long time, but the killdeer always stayed a few feet in front of him.

There was nothing I could do about this and I feared that the killdeer were going to get killed by these large birds. But, things started to change. The male killdeer began charging the crows, enticing them to chase him, to which they did, but could not out-fly or out-maneuver the killdeer (I hear that killdeer can cruise for 40MPH all day long during their migrations).

Then, I saw both the male and the female do broken wing acts, each on one side of the group of crows. When the crows took the bait, they flew away and the killdeer began to dive-bomb them one after the other. They were like buzzing bees, zooming around the heads of all five crows. The crows tried to fight back and I was afraid the killdeer were going to get hurt, but they were fine in the end. When they weren't dive-bombing, they were on the ground screaming their hearts out.

Ballpark male beginning to do a broken wing act

Finally, the crows decided that it wasn't any fun anymore and three of them left. They called the other two away, but they came back and sat on top of the fence, probably wondering why the killdeer were so aggressive and possibly waiting for a chick to come out of hiding (no chicks or eggs in the area, though). I came over and "bothered" those crows away and they sat in a nearby tree.

I don't know if the crows came back after I was gone to try again. Crows are extremely smart, especially when it comes to finding food, but I think they mostly harass or hurt other birds for entertainment. They like to think that all the other birds and small animals are afraid of them and that they're the bosses of the bird world. I don't how they are in regards to retaliation. I will check on these birds Monday. They may actually not be there because of the fireworks and ballgames this weekend.

I don't know what these killdeer think they're protecting, but they are determined to protect it. Maybe they laid eggs that disappeared, but they're still in egg protecting mode.

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