The Birding Answer to The Shining

And were back and keeping the theme.  Once again were highlighting the wildlife at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  Today’s post was a very rare sighting that not many people have had the pleasure of witnessing at this particular wetlands.  Behold our newest entry to Life Intrigued… drum roll …

The Prairie Peacock!

This bird is highly admired for it’s adaptive quality to blend into any marsh area in the prairie wetlands.  It is not uncommon for you to walk right past them dismissing them as a large dandelion or an isolated clump of prairie grass.  I will admit that I do benefit from this unique characteristic.  Whenever someone comes over and comments about the weeds in my yard I smugly inform them that we are blessed with a local muster of prairie peacocks!

You buying this?  If so, consider yourself gullible.  In case you live a sheltered life in the city, the bird of the day is actually a Plover.  These birds are all over the place at Emiquon enjoying the shores of the flooded lowland.  Confirming our field guides, this bird is very noisy and very cautious.  They did not want me very close at all and they made haste whenever the barrel of the Beast turned their way.  Last post I mentioned that there was an upcoming bird sporting the red eye color.  Well, here it is.

This Plover’s eyes are a little brighter with a larger pupil compared to the more blood red of the American Coot.  Like the Coot, they are a perfect for photography because they tend to keep their eye on you (if they are aware of your presence) making for very nice compositions.  Generally I see them walking the shorelines on their stilt like legs.  I think the one below failed to judge an oncoming wake.  It was looking around to make sure none of the other inhabitants saw his mistake.

Hit the jump to learn more about the Emiquon inhabitant

The ironic thing is they are actually an attractively colored bird but due to their inhabitant preference they are commonly photographed walking in the mud and muck.  Although the North American coverage of the American Coot was impressive, this bird has it beat – the only missing spots in the population map is the middle of the Great Lakes.  A lot of that is due to their adaptation to human development taking up residence in parking lots, ball diamonds and sand quarries and such.

You are probably wondering what the title has to do with the title of this post.  Actually, this particular Plover has a distinctive name.  In fact, it I was not even aware of it’s family affiliation until doing the research for this post (… yes, research.. and yet the complaint department is always busy responding to disgruntled readers wondering when the next post is coming … sigh).  Most of us are familiar with this bird by it’s given name.  Once again, I gave a clever hint at the end of the last post “I hope my dear wife doesn’t try to kill me for that comment.”  Well?  If you figured out this is bird is actually called a Killdeer give yourself a 1,000 points and join us in the championship round.  There were actually two reasons I picked the title.  The first one came from looking at the following picture and for some reason imagining it sticking through a recently axed door … Here’s Plover!

The second reason is due to the results of a Google search to track down a curiosity.  I thought it was an odd name with so many other birds retaining the Plover title somewhere in the name.  Turns out the name came because the original founders of this species thought their call was similar to the sound Kill Deer.. Kill Deer and those highly creative discoverers decided to go with it.  Seems to be an excellent setting for a Stephen King novel.  All alone in the marsh on a dark and foggy night surrounded by glowing red eyes all calling for the demise of fellow wildlife.  Redrum redrum redrum.  I want royalties if this theme makes it to the big screen.

By the way, I was actually not kidding about this birds ability to merge into its surroundings.  It may not sport a dandelion plumage, but the earth tones and whites work really well as camouflage in the dead weeds of the marsh.

I should probably comment that these birds have a very unique manner in which to protect their young.  They next on the ground (often in gravel) and therefore their young are susceptible to prey.  The Killdeer has another relationship to the Shining .. they are also an actor of sorts.  When a predator comes near their young, they will deploy their skills and suddenly develop a broken wing (or two depending on how far they are in the actor schooling).  This injured bird routine draws the predator away from their young.  Once the danger is sufficiently directed away from the chicks they shed their act and take to the safety of the skies.

I have yet to witness this act personally since the Emiquon boardwalks keep the watchers far enough away from their nests but I’ll have to try and seek out a show the next time we are at Banner Marsh.  – maybe I’ll even try out my camera’s HD video capability (or, gag, break out Linda’s iPad) and introduce a new media element to this blog.

We’re now at the tail end of the post…

I hope you enjoyed reading about this stilted Plover – if you did, you should really enjoy the next one – as a teaser I consider it the jewel of our visits to Emiquon to date and a bird I didn’t even know existed in these parts until seeing it on a sign at the refuge – now it’s in the tin.

10 thoughts on “The Birding Answer to The Shining”

  1. Actually, when I saw the first photo I thought you had incorrectly identified a Killdeer as the endangered Plover, so I started looking it up, only to find that a killdeer is a kind of plover! So what are those plovers that are supposed to be so endangered according to every nature center I’ve been to that’s close to water?

    Killdeers are ultra-cool dudes. I can watch them for a long time.

    Ron

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  2. jewel… Common Goldeneye? Black-Crowned Night Heron? Yellow-Crowned Night Heron? Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (too common)? Golden Eagle? Eastern Kingbird? Orange-crowned Warbler? White-crowned Sparrow? Summer or Scarlet Tanager (because of the color)?

    Ron

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  3. “You are probably wondering what the title has to do with the title of this post. Actually, this particular Plover has a distinctive name.” Why did you have to look it up … don’t you trust me? There are a ton of plovers in my field guides – it is hard to say exactly which ones are endangered, but the Piping Plover is in the few thousand left range.

    Whoa whoa whoa.. no hint meant in the last post regarding the upcoming post. I just referred to it as the jewel because I had never seen it before and and kind of discovered it by accident – actually Linda saw it first, but then again that is one the U.B. responsibilities – to scout the land while the master photographer busy taking gallery shots! … and for the record, those are all wrong but the black-crowned night heron is kinda close.

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  4. Hmm, I must have missed the mention of “this particular plover.” I guess I thought a plover is a plover all the world over. It is the Piping Plover that is endangered, though, now that you mention it.

    I took “jewel” literally because your mention of “killing” in the previous post portended a presentation of the particular plover in the present post. If I’d known that “killing” was a clue, I would have guessed crows, since a flock is called a “murder of crows.”

    BTW, FYI, my bird guesses were drawn from http://experienceemiquon.com/content/emiquon-national-wildlife-refuge-wildlifebird-count

    Ron

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  5. Cheater!!! I actually didn’t know that site existed so thanks for the link – I did verify that the upcoming featured bird is indeed on the list… and listed as Occasional by the way making the sight that much more of a gem! Speaking of a flock of something, did you notice my call out of a flock of peacocks? That would be a MUSTER and no I didn’t know that – had to look it up showing once again the great lengths I go for my readers in each and every post.

    … and no I did not make my U.B. do that for me!

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  6. I didn’t know a group of peacocks is a “muster”. Hmm, maybe I was going to great lengths for the reader, too? That wouldn’t necessarily be inherently inconsistent with cheating, which was my original intent.

    Ron

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  7. first it’s cheating .. next it’s taking your sister-IN-LAW’s side on any arguments involving your BROTHER — what’s next willfully breaking our state’s parking laws and committing moving violations? I think it’s time for an intervention!!!

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  8. It was a city parking law, an Illinois registration law, and an Indiana moving vehicle law. With that streak, I had to side with a sister in law.

    Ron

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  9. Sigh, I’ve been down the Illinois registration issue – maybe Linda can tell you sometime about how she sold me out to the cop and nearly talked the officer into GIVING me a ticket. Thank god he took sympathy on me (Eddie helped by licking his face when he came to my window). I’ve never forgiven her for that little episode.

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  10. Forgive and forget, I say–it feels good to let go of these things. And the best way to forget all about that little episode is to send me $50. Then all you’ll think about is the $50 you gave me.

    Ron (helping to make the world a happier place for everyone)

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