Defending the Kids
Piping plovers are endangered and they like the same beaches we humans do…and at the same time.
This can cause some tense and dangerous moments for both the parents and young chicks. I was recently at the beach watching a Piping plover family. The parents had to constantly maneuver their nearly uncontrollable day-old chick away from crabs, gulls, beach goers and dogs. After losing another chick the day it was born, they were alert and aggressive to any intruder. Whenever a person or anything they considered a danger to their chick came near, the parents would call to the chick to get him out of harms way.
When that didn’t work, they would try a variety of other
guises designed to lure the danger away. Often they would pretend to have a broken wing —
which is frequently successful, even when dealing with humans. But keeping crows, seagulls, raccoons, foxes, cats, ghost crabs, dogs and humans away is a full time job, and they put a remarkable amount of energy into corralling chicks, distracting and attacking intruders. Given the variety of dangers facing their chicks, the parents have to be adaptable and move quickly. Being a small nesting shorebird is not for the feint of heart.
Apart from what they did to protect their remaining chick, they also taught their chick a very important skill – hiding. Piping plovers- especially the chicks – are the exact color of the sand. And when a chick quickly drops into a shallow in the sand to hide, it is nearly imperceptible. Its not a solution when there is a running dog or human traffic, but for overhead predators, it’s pretty effective. Here’s a photo of a chick hiding in a shallow in the sand. Can you find the Piping plover chick in this picture?
Hint:(Look for an eye, top of the head and part of the beak)
Let us know on our Facebook page if you found the piping plover chick!