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March 21, 2010

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marjorie

that is indeed a dapper bird. (and i love the semi-shameless anthropomorphism tag.

Susan McCarthy

Yes, it's even dapper as a child. Dapper and kissable.

(I think you are the first to note the tag....)

Elizabeth

I always found that wing-dragging behavior impressive. But wouldn't the local wildlife catch on after millennia? Shouldn't natural selection among killdeer predators made the trick obsolete? Just wondering.

Susan McCarthy

Yes, red foxes get wise to the stunt. Grouse do these displays too, and foxes have been witnessed ignoring the brave dramatics of the parent, inspecting the area from which it sprang, and snapping up chicks.

In places where there are lots of naive young foxes, parent grouse are more likely to do the display, but in areas where the foxes are more experienced, grouse are less likely to bother.

Dogs can learn to ignore the adult bird with the fake injury.

That's not catching on after millennia, but in an individual's lifetime. I don't know if there's enough selective pressure to build skepticism about apparently injured parent birds into a predator, given that I don't think any of them live exclusively on killdeer or grouse. Probably more importantly, breeding season isn't that big a proportion of the year.

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