In honour of Valentine’s Day, and since we really #lovetheplov here at Earth Rangers, we’re sharing an epic tale of the unbreakable bond between a mama bird and her babies. Come along as we learn all about the Piping Plover’s clever strategies for protection from predators!
Back in September, when we launched the Piping Plover Bring Back the Wild project, we introduced them as the cutest little birds you’ve probably never heard of – and we definitely weren’t kidding when we said little! Full-sized adults are usually only about half a ruler (that’s 15 centimeters) long, so you can only imagine how teeny tiny their babies must be.
This small size makes them totally adorable, but it also makes them vulnerable to predators like raccoons, foxes, and even cats. Combine this with the fact that babies can’t fly for at least a month after they’re born, and that plovers make their nests on the ground, and it sounds like you have a recipe for disaster. But fear not, plover protectors! Mama birds have come up with some pretty smart strategies for keeping their young safe. Prepare to be impressed!
Dude, where’s my nest?!
Before their eggs hatch, plover parents work hard to protect their growing babies. They take turns sitting on the nest and incubating their eggs, but once a predator is spotted, the show begins! Plovers will quickly leave their nest and find a nearby spot in the sand to sit on instead, tricking any predators into thinking this new spot is a nest full of eggs. Then they’ll watch as the predator gets closer and closer, until they fly away just in the nick of time, leaving the predator confused (and hungry!).
Pick me! Pick me!
Once the plover babies have hatched, protecting them becomes a whole new ball game. The chicks stay close to the nest, but sometimes one will be spotted by a predator ready to make its move. Not so fast! As soon as mom and dad spot a prowling predator, they spring to action, leaping into the predator’s line of sight. Once they’ve been spotted they’ll attempt to distract the predator by pretending they’ve got a broken wing, hoping that the predator goes after them instead of their babies. Once the plover has lured the predator away from the nest they’ll fly away to safety. Plover: 1 vs. Predator: 0!
These ingenious strategies might help protect plovers from predators, but sadly their populations are still low due to habitat loss and disturbance. Do your part to help by starting a Bring Back the Wild campaign today!
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