The one where the killdeer twerks at me

One of the joys of my first year of the COVID epidemic was discovering a pair of killdeers that nested in a creek a short walk from my back door. It was a joy again a few days ago to see that another killdeer couple has set up housekeeping in the same area, along the 12th-hole fairway of the golf course that our modest property adjoins.

I was on a late-afternoon walk, returning home, when I spotted movement in the rocky creek bed, just to the side of a culvert connecting to a retention pond. I pulled up my binoculars and made a solid ID on a killdeer.

Killdeer standing amid the rocks in a creek bed.
Momma killdeer gives me the eye as I approach her nest hidden among the rocks of Cobblestone Creek, April 22, 2022.

The bird soon turned away from me, fanning out its tail feathers. I thought — mistakenly, I would learn — it must be some sort of courtship maneuver. But no other bird was nearby.

Knowing that killdeer make their nests on the ground, I always keep a fair distance when I see them in the creek. I moved in slightly closer to snap a few photos but quickly moved on.

Before I reached home, curiosity got the better of me. I did a Google search from my iPhone on why a killdeer would fan its tail feathers. The answer came up quickly on the website of Northern Woodlands magazine: killdeer fan their feathers as a diversion to keep predators away. The article, from 2016, is a great read on the protective measures many bird species take. “If they gave out Academy Awards for bird performances,” the article says, “the killdeer would win for over-acting.”

Having been profiled as a predator, I’ll be sure to keep a good distance from killdeer from now on. I saw enough bird twerking that day to last me a good while.

Killdeer reflected in a pond.
A killdeer walks along the edge of the retention pond on the golf course near my home May 4, 2022. The retention pond is across the fairway from the culvert where the killdeer nest is.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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