Friday, June 4, 2010

Killdeer at the Horticulture Center

Atop the new Horticulture Center's 6-bay garage is an intensive green roof with a large variety of plants and grasses. The green roof is a feature that is part of the sustainability effort at the Horticulture Center, slated for LEED certification.  Not only does the roof help to reduce the building's absorption of heat from the sun and slow water runoff but it also is home to a number of Native Perennials and Prairie Grasses.

The roof is not yet fully vegetated but that didn't stop a Killdeer from recently setting up "nest" amidst the small stones and grasses.  Killdeer, a type of Plover, is a bird that doesn't make a typical nest in a tree that may immediately come to mind.  Instead, it lays its eggs on the open ground, sometimes among gravel, leaving it open to predators.

The Killdeer uses two main defense mechanisms to protect its eggs.  First, the eggs are camouflaged to blend into its surroundings and second the Killdeer uses a distraction display to protect their nests from predators.  If an animal approaches the nest, the Killdeer will move away from the nest and feign a broken wing by flapping its wings and making a loud crying noise to distract the threatening predator from the nest.  When the predator, thinking the injured bird is an easy target, begins to close in on the Killdeer, it flies a few feet away and repeats the distraction display, lulling the predator further and further from the nest.

The camouflage of the Killdeer's egg is very impressive.  Can you spot the Killdeer eggs in the picture below?

Can you see them in this zoom-in?

Still need another hint?

Here it is: the Killdeer's camouflaged eggs on top of the Horticulture Center's Intensive roof:

The Morris Arboretum is home to many other species of birds and animals - we will explore some of them in upcoming blog posts so stay tuned.  Kudos to the sharp eyes of Louise Clark for spotting the eggs and thanks to Paul Meyer for the all photos (besides the one of the actual Killdeer by Alan Wilson) and information on the Killdeer.

1 comment:

  1. Very cool! Can't wait to see posts of other creatures at the Arboretum!