PLOVER LOVER? MEET SOME CUTE CHICKS ON ABACO


Wilson's Plover chick.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley

PLOVER LOVER? MEET SOME CUTE CHICKS ON ABACO

(*Serious Voice*) “The Wilson’s Plover is the only permanent resident plover found on Abaco, the other species being the winter resident Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover and Killdeer; and the rare transient American Golden Plover. The nidification of the Wilson’s Plover is by common consent among naturalists the most…”

But let’s not get carried away with all that pompous ornithological stuff. There are baby plovers to be considered. Each one exudz adorbz and absorbz admirz. Most of the photos below were taken on the beach at Delphi. Ready? Let’s meet some chicks… But you can’t have them without first having the eggs, can you?

Wilson's Plover nest, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Clare Latimer)Wilson's Plover chick.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley

The Wilson’s Plovers at Delphi generally nest at the north end of the beach, up towards the reef. It is secluded, has good sight-lines and is bordered by pines. On the approach of a predator or human (in this case, me), the tiny chicks are sent scuttling to safety at the back of the beach while the parents prepare to tough it out if need be…Wilson's Plover Chicks Delphi Beach, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

“You ain’t seen me, right?”Wilson's Plover Chick, Delphi Beach, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

“I know we are caught in the open, but if we stand really still, you can’t see us, right?”Wilson's Plover Chicks x 2, Delphi, Abaco (Keith Salvesen)

One of the most fascinating aspects of bird behaviour to watch is the so-called ‘broken-wing’ display put on by plover parent(s) to distract a predator away from a nest or scrape, and the eggs or chicks in it. Kildeer and black-necked stilts are among other species that do this performance. It goes like something like this: 

“Oh! OW! I am helpless. Please don’t attack me, Apex Predator, for I am but a vulnerable plover…”Wilson's Plover, Delphi, Abaco -  broken wing display (Clare Latimer)

“But kindly follow me as I flap pathetically (moving away from my nest). I can’t fly, you know…”Wilson's Plover, Delphi, Abaco -  broken wing display (Clare Latimer)

Camouflage also plays a part in the protection of these little creatures. This chick is on the rocks at the north end of the Delphi beach, the bit where you begin to wish you’d worn shoes because the rock is so sharp… From 10 feet away, you might well miss seeing the chick completely.Wilson's Plover chick. Delphi.Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley

This is one of my favourite shots, also at Delphi, taken by Sandy WalkerWilson's Plover & Chick, Delphi, Abaco (Sandy Walker)

Quite a while ago, I wrote about a Wilson’s Plover family that had made their scrape at Nettie’s Point, the place where the bonefishing skiffs are launched. They chose their homemaking site right where the trucks and trailers turn. Big mistake you might think. But the kind guides built a small stockade of branches round the scrape so that it could clearly be seen and avoided. After that, Mrs WP settled down happily and Mr WP stood guard whenever anyone was around…

The protective stockade in place. Mrs Plover in place. All’s well with the worldNettie's Point, Abaco - Proected Wison's Plover Nest (Keith Salvesen)Nettie's Point, Abaco - Mrs Wilson's Plover on the nest (Keith Salvesen)

Soon after, two chicks hatched, were reared by both parents, and in due course fledged safelyWilson's Plover.Abaco Bahamas.Tom SheleyWilson's Plover + chicks 2.Abaco Bahamas.6.13.Tom Sheley

Photo Credits: Clare Latimer (2, 7, 8); Tom Sheley (1, 3, 9, 13, 14); Sandy Walker (10); RH (the rest)

SCRAPES, CHICKS & BROKEN WINGS: WILSON’S PLOVERS ON ABACO (3)


Wilson's Plover Delphi BeachSCRAPES, CHICKS & BROKEN WINGS: WILSON’S PLOVERS ON ABACO (3)

The male plover above is keeping watch from a rocky vantage point over an area at the north end of the beach at Delphi. And with good reason. It’s the summer breeding season, and on the sand are some nests. One of them is his.

This is a ‘scrape’ – not the carefully constructed nest that most birds make, but a shore bird’s collection of sticks and twigs – sometimes stones or shells – clumped together on the sand to provide a comfortable place for the mother to sit until the eggs have hatched.Wilson's Plover Scrape CL JPG

Though tiny at first, the chicks soon become independent enough to explore their surroundingsWilson's Plover Chick, Delphi Beach, Abaco

Usually, there will be a pair of chicks, maybe more. The two in the photo below have scuttled to the back of the beach for safety because the adults thought I was getting a bit close, and sent them to hide in the pine needlesWilson's Plover Chicks Delphi Beach

When a nest is threatened by a predator, Wilson’s plovers have a defensive technique that is remarkable to watch. Other shore birds, for example Killdeer, resort to this method as well. A parent will flutter about pathetically on the sand, apparently with one or both wings broken, attracting the predator by its faked vulnerability. The plover will gradually draw the threat away from the nest area, protecting the eggs or allowing chicks to make themselves scarce. Here are some examples of the ‘broken wing display’, all photographed on the beach at Delphi. The first 2 images show a female; the third, a male.Wilson's Plover - broken wing display CL1 Wilson's Plover - broken wing display CL4 Wilson's Plover - broken wing display CL6

Athough the little chicks are vulnerable, they grow quicklyWilson's Plover Chicks x 2 RH Delphi

Before very long, they are able to get onto the same rocky vantage point as their parents to practise surveying the scene. Next summer, they will be keeping watch over nests and chicks of their own.Wilson's Plover chick.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley JPG

The previous posts in the series are WILSON’S PLOVERS (1) showing the adults;  and WILSON’S PLOVERS (2) that shows how plovers nesting on the shore at Nettie’s Point were protected from human activity in the boat-launching area.

“I’m off now. See you next year”Wilson's Plover Delphi Beach AbacoCredits: scrape & broken wing display, Clare Latimer; last (and best) chick image, Tom Sheley; the rest, RH