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Here come the clowns

August 9, 2014

DSCN9665I was driving deep in the heart of Flowerdale recently when I noticed sitting in the middle of someone’s lawn what we call in our household a ‘Clown bird’ (pictured left). It is in fact a Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) but with a face like that we prefer our name. I had seen them before but never around our neck of the woods. The bird pictured is of the subspecies novaehollandiae identified by the black marking around the breast.

Masked Lapwings are raucous birds and very territorial, particularly in nesting season. They will nest in highly open spaces. As I approached, DSCN9679camera in hand, the bird staggered off pretending a broken leg and leaving a clutch of three eggs and a chick (pictured right). The nest consisted of, well, nothing — barely a scrape in the ground. I wondered what evolutionary tactic has led this bird to lay eggs on the ground in such highly visible areas. The chick is normally well camouflaged against sticks, leaf litter and soil – but not on a lawn.

Chick. What chick?

Chick. What chick?

The Masked Lapwing used to be called a Spur-winged Plover but the name was changed as it was shared by a totally different bird on the African continent. In the photo left you can clearly see the yellow spur protruding from the wing. The spur, which is non-venomous, is used by the bird when defending its territory or chicks. In fact the species name miles is Latin for soldier, probably referring to the weapon on its wings and its aggressive attitude. On a second visit the bird remained sitting on the ground and pretended there were no chicks for miles. However a close look underneath will reveal another pairs of legs. I wonder where the chick is?

It might look like a clown, but watch out if you get too close and there are young to protect.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Terry Hubbard permalink
    August 10, 2014 9:43 pm

    Ron,

    It occurred to me that those plovers were of above average intelligence – they chose a large open nesting ground completely surrounded by a fox proof fence – unlike most of the vulnerable sites commonly used!

    T

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