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Classical Music

Outdoors: Killdeer actors

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I am in awe of the actors and dancers in a long running show.

Day after day, performance after performance, they play their parts as if their lives, or at least their careers, depend on their best efforts.

That’s how it is with one of Interlochen’s greatest actors—a medium-sized shorebird called a killdeer.

This species tends to select gravel surfaces on which to nest, and over the years, killdeer have nested on the driveway in front of Lochaven, in the parking lots, and back when Bud’s was a gas station, right between the pumps.

If a perceived predator, and that includes any human, comes too close to the nest or young, the parent bird feigns a broken wing and, calling piteously, limps in the opposite direction of the nest.

The predator, thinking it is going to get an easy meal, is distracted and fails to notice the nest or the chicks.

Ornithologists don’t know if the parent birds realize that, with the broken wing act, they are leading the predator astray.

Distraction behavior does put a limping killdeer at risk, but its career as a parent will be cut short if the performance is not convincing.

But it is convincing, often many times a day, usually over a period of several weeks.

And every broken wing act is brilliant.