Bird Watching Archives

Killdeer Broken Wing

Killdeer Broken Wing Act



Killdeer—hart curt (

The Broken Wing Act (also called a distraction or deflection display or paratrepsis) is a nesting bird behavior intended to lure a potential enemy away from the nest or young being protected. It is particularly well known in nesting waders and plovers and doves such as the Mourning Dove.

Faking injury is one of the more common forms of distraction. Birds walk away from the nest with one wing hung low and dragging on the ground, or otherwise looking badly injured, so as to appear as an easy target for a predator. With much movement and loud vocal calls, they will try to lead the enemy away from the nest, taking flight if the predator gets too close. Then they will often fly in nearer again to try to pull the enemy away. These displays are used mainly for ground predators, and are rarely used against flying predators.

The Killdeer is a common small plover, with distinctive black neckbands, that nests directly on the ground and often exhibits this protective behavior. The Killdeer is named for its distinctive “kill-deer” call.

Killdeer Eggs on the Ground

Often I’ve found nests and babies by approaching a noisy bird on the ground. If you get the Killdeer Broken Wing response then you’ll know there’s a nest or babies nearby. Look around carefully, but don’t follow the bird. Instead, move to one side or backwards making VERY sure you don’t step on the eggs. They will be directly on the ground, and are off-white with brown spots and, well, very hard to spot.

The parent bird will try even harder to distract you as you get closer to the nest. You can easily close in on the nest by watching the bird’s behavior. The bird will come closer to you and then move radially away from the nest trying to pull you away. It’s wonderful to do this and find the nest, typically 3-4 eggs. The parent bird, no doubt, does NOT think this is wonderful, however. Shortly after hatching, the tiny baby birds can run very fast and won’t stay around long. The parents will try to lure you away from the scurrying babies also.

A few years ago we visited a Rocky Mountain Horse farm in Ohio while looking for horses to buy. Outside the barn door was a circular driveway surrounding a grassy patch about 40 feet in diameter. There we noticed two Killdeer running around. Approaching them, one started the broken wing act. We quickly located the nest containing 4 eggs. It was the first time we had seen a Killdeer nest.

We were surprised that the nest is, well, nestless – the eggs were just laid on the ground. We also thought “What a stupid place for a nest!” with about a half dozen barn cats wandering around the area. Amazed, we watched an occasional cat walk into the grassy area to be met with by an obviously half dead Killdeer which quickly lured the cat away from the nest. The strategy worked perfectly time and time again. The cats never got near the nest! And never caught an adult Killdeer either.

A bit later we watched the eggs hatching, and an hour after that saw the first baby start running with its Mom. By the next morning there were no eggs, no babies and no adult Killdeer in sight. No smiling cats either.

Killdeer with 9 Legs !!

Killdeer with 9 Legs !!

Cat hunting

Cat hunting -

We very often see and hear Killdeer in fields, on lawns, and even shopping mall parking lots. Usually, Killdeer are not too nervous around people. The videos below will train your ear to the sounds to listen for. Enjoy your search for a live demonstration of the Killdeer Broken Wing act. Happy hunting. By the way, the eggs are delicious – just kidding!




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RoadRunner Sex

RoadRunner Sex


RoadRunner from

They’re unusual birds with long tails and a bushy crest on their scrawny head, long very fast legs and a comical nature. The RoadRunner (Geococcyx californianus), is native to the American Southwest and Northern Mexico, and is the state bird of New Mexico. They are about 2 feet long (half of which is tail) and stand 10 to 12 inches high. They will eat fruits, seeds, and berries, but prefer meat – insects, spiders, snakes, small mammals, birds and eggs, and roadkill. They kill their prey by a thrust of their beak to the back of the neck and sometimes beating it against a rock. They will even cooperate in killing larger prey like rattlesnakes.

RoadRunners can fly, but prefer to run – everywhere. Fast. They can run up to 25 miles per hour, the fastest of any flying bird. Their feet have two toes pointing forward and two backwards, and make “X” shaped footprints in the desert sand.


While living in Tucson, Arizona a couple years ago. my wife, Nancy, and I frequently saw a RoadRunner running (as usual) through our property. Then one day we saw TWO. The male was on one side of our chainlink fence carrying something in its mouth. A dead lizard hung swinging from both sides of his beak as he ran back an forth trying to get to his friend on the opposite side. Eventually, the female found a gap under the fence and came inside. The male repeatedly bowed, alternately lifting and dropping his wings and spreading his tail. He paraded in front of the female with his head high and his tail and wings drooped. They started chasing each other around in a circle; first about 12 feet in diameter. Then 10; then 8. Like a snake eating its tail the circle got smaller and smaller until… Well, he jumped on top of her – and we knew the worst (or best?) – this had to be their mating dance.



It was a wild flurry of long tails flapping and twisting and there seemed definitely to be MORE than TWO tails. That was confusing until we realized that they seem to have the capability to split their tail feathers into two separate parts heading in different directions, up, down and sideways independently. Weird – Although sometimes I feel like that.



The action stopped with him still on her back. It was only then that he dropped the lizard to her. The lizard vanished quickly. This seemed to be some sort of payment (for services rendered?).

When the dust finally settled (literally), he jumped off. Leaving her crouched down and totally disheveled with little tufts of feathers sticking out in all directions. “Sex hair” we’d call it for humans.


A subsequent excursion into the world wide web disclosed further information. RoadRunners, we were told, can mate every day for up to 14 days – and a couple weeks later lay an egg every day for up to 14 days. (Other sources said only 2 to 12 eggs however.) In any case, we saw this same ritual repeated a few more times in the following week. One of those times was different. The male, this time, did not have the agreed upon dead lizard in his beak – but a lowly stick (also dead) about 12 inches long. The female, no slouch, caught on immediately, stuck her nose in the air and strutted off, leaving the disappointed male holding the stick. Well, back to lizard hunting, guy, if you want any more RoadRunner sex.


We discovered their nest over our heads in a big mesquite tree on our property. Unfortunately we weren’t able to find a way to look into the nest to see how things progressed. We never again caught sight of the pair or their offspring. That was just before we sold that property and moved on, as we so often do with our semi-nomad lifestyle (See the About Us page in this website.)

New Mexico’s state bird, as I mentioned above, is the RoadRunner. On our annual relocation to the Southwest for the winter, we had noticed a number of times a huge “statue” of a RoadRunner up on a hill, on Interstate 10, just west of Las Cruces, New Mexico. We wondered how to get to it, but somehow never noticed the huge bird on our trek back East in late spring. Not to let a RoadRunner outsmart me, the next time we saw it heading west, I noted the nearest highway exit sign. When we went east again, I got off at that exit to discover it was a Rest Area. One of its features was the giant RoadRunner patiently waiting our arrival.



We discovered the RoadRunner to be about 50 feet long! And tall enough for me to walk under. And most amazing of all – it is made completely from TRASH! Look at the photos carerfully. We don’t know who the artist was, but he/she sure gets happy smiles from us for producing such a wonderful monument to this most excellent bird.






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Tucson Bird and Wildlife Festival

Tucson Bird and Wildlife Festival

Arizona birds, Birds in the back yard 08

Arizona birds, Birds in the back yard 08—marksontok (

Tucson Audubon Society is hosting the Tucson Bird & Wildlife Festival on August 15-19, 2012

In mid August people from all over the country will be gathering in Tucson to enjoy the best time of the year for bird watching in this area. August 15-19, Wednesday throught Sunday, will see Tucson and surrounding areas filled with birds and birders during this Tucson Bird and Wildlife Festival.

Tucson Audubon and the Riverpark Inn invite you to join the fun at the Tucson Bird & Wildlife Festival, August 15-19. This event celebrates the unique biodiversity of southeast Arizona with exciting educational opportunities for birders and nature enthusiasts to discover and enjoy the Sonoran Desert and Sky Islands

During southeastern Arizona’s exciting monsoon season, Tucson is one of the top three destinations for birdwatching in America. The Tucson Bird and Wildlife Festival provides an opportunity to experience peak numbers and diversity of bird species. More hummingbird species can be found here than anywhere else in the country. Except for Texas, no other state has more bat species. Southeastern Arizona and its wildlife are celebrated through field trips, workshops, free talks, keynote addresses, and a nature expo. Five days of well organized activities offer a variety of ways to see many species, in a variety of habitats, to keep you busy, entertained, and learning.

Cactus Wren

Cactus Wren—Mike

Attend early morning field trips to nearby destinations such as Sweetwater Wetlands, Las Cienegas, and Madera Canyon. Full-day trips to higher elevation sites such as the Huachuca or Santa Catalina Mountains assure wildlife-watching attendees will stay cool in the heat of the day. Returning to the festival headquarters at the Riverpark Inn, attendees may participate in bar-side social hours, join keynote dinners, listen to free talks on many nature themes, and gain new interesting knowledge in workshops including “Hummingbirds 101″ and “Go Batty.” Thursday through Saturday, exhibitors from birding tour companies, binocular vendors, and local hand-crafted jewelry and art vendors display their wares while live bird and reptile presentations are offered.

This event showcases the work of many local conservation organizations and watchable wildlife opportunities to provide an encompassing array of “bird and wildlife” offerings during the festival. Partnerships include activities with the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, Coronado National Forest, Pima County Parks and Recreation, the National Parks Service,the University of Arizona, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Herpetological Society, Arizona Game and Fish Department, and Arizona State Parks, among others.

People from 20 states have already signed up for the festival. Field trips are filling quickly; for your chance to explore the diversity of the Sky Islands, from high desert grasslands to riparian corridors to juniper-oak woodlands, evergreen and deciduous forests, within a couple of hours of Tucson in search of spectacular wildlife, sign up soon.

Tucson Bird & Wildlife Festival
August 15-19, 2012
The Riverpark Inn
350 S. Freeway, Tucson, AZ 85745

For more information and online registration, please visit



If you have any views on this, or experiences of your own you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you – please leave a comment below.

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VelociRaptors in North Carolina?

The Beauty of Nature from our NC home

North Carolina Home


About 10 years ago we built a home in the steep mountains near Boone, North Carolina (since sold). The house had high cathedral ceilings and a tall wall of glass facing the southern mountains. It was a rather wild place with no other houses in sight. We had white-tailed deer and wild turkeys wandering about every day.

Never look back - it may be gaining on you!

Having been avid bird watchers for many years, we of course had bird feeders out on our deck. Some of the bird seed fell to the ground below the deck, and soon several large families of turkeys learned to visit there regularly. Not to miss the opportunity, we quickly bought a 50 pound sack of corn to fatten them up – and with an eye toward taming them (but no thoughts of eating them).

Tossing generous handfuls of corn around the deck and outside the doors, we awaited the inevitable. When they arrived they made short work of cleaning up every kernel of corn. We’d very slowly open the door and peer out at them. When they spotted us, the entire flock would start of running at break-neck speed (and probably screaming in their little minds) toward the nearby woods or up our steep driveway to quickly vanish.

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