By: Michael Fox

Masked Lapwing nest with camouflaged eggs

Masked Lapwing nest with camouflaged eggs

Some parents, like our Brush-turkeys Alectura lathami, take a very hands/wings-off approach to raising their young. Male Brush-turkeys put a lot of effort into building a huge mulch pile for the eggs and monitor the mound temperature closely but once their chicks are hatched they are on their own and able to fly within a few hours.

Masked Lapwing (Spur-winged Plover) Vanellus miles parents couldn’t be more different. Given their approach to nesting, I am amazed that these birds seem to thrive in our urban spaces.

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How can eggs survive in a space like this?

In early September I  photographed this nest in the mown area between the Southern Cross Sports Club and Logan/Klumpp Road intersection. Very different from the Brush-turkey mound, this nest was just a shallow depression in the sand with a few twigs. With hundreds of cars passing, pedestrians, mowers and football fans, this is not an ideal place to hatch eggs.

Masked Lapwing - defending nest - 2 Sept 2014

Don’t come any closer!

However, Plovers are very protective parents using tactics ranging from moving away from their eggs, to threatening and sometime swooping. These very protective parents put on a very threatening display with loud squawking, spreading wings and running towards you showing their sharp wing spurs.  Simply moving away is usually enough and swooping birds rarely actually make contact … it is mainly bluff.

The Backyard Buddies team have a good guide for kids on relating to Plovers – http://www.fnpw.org.au/PDFS/Resources/maskedLapwing.pdf

My photos of the nest were all taken from about 2o metres distance, as I was already upsetting the parent birds and I didn’t want to make things worse.

So, that was early September, early October and our proud parents are now protecting four tiny balls of grey/white fluff … with powerful feet and legs that look like they belong to a miniature Emu.

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Plover chicks or miniature Emus?

The parents were still very protective as the chicks hunted for insects and grubs on the Vulture’s football field. Environmentally friendly solution to lawn grub problems?

Particularly interesting was the change in behaviour of the parents. Their calls now seemed to serve two purposes. As I approached well outside the fence the parent’s calls seemed to trigger the four chicks to immediately move away from the fence and further into the field. At the same time the parents made it very clear to me that I was not welcome. I wonder how they get on with the football players?

 

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