parents

Even The Smallest Parents Pack A Mighty Punch!

Ask any sensible guide, and they’ll tell you that animals that are parents are to be viewed from a respectable distance.

We have the luxury today to have learned from the past mistakes of others. For some we learn by reading a book, others by watching footage of close encounters gone wrong, and a few with a strong survival instinct causes them avoid the situation of a close encounter entirely.

The parents of even the most timid of species can be driven by the natural instinct to defend their young by any means necessary, no matter how great the threat.

Birds in general have developed methods to ensure the survival of their young. The Blacksmith Lapwing is a precocial species, meaning that when the chicks hatch, they have a feathery covering and are developed enough to see and run. This is compared to the altricial species which hatch under-developed and cannot see or run, and are naked.

The tradeoff with birthing precocial young is that the parents have to look after the eggs for twice the normal length of time (for lapwings – 29 days), of an altricial species of similar size, so that the chick is able to develop enough for life on the ground.

For this reason, defensive measures have been set in place for the protective parents. The eggs are camouflaged (a light brown colour with black blotches all around), and in the heat during the spring, the parents may even belly-wet in order to keep the eggs cool.

If any potential predators such as jackals or birds of prey come into the vicinity of the eggs or chicks, the parents must take evasive action against the intruder. At first, they may try to draw attention away from the nest or young by making noise (thus drawing attention to themselves) and attempt to lead the predator away.

If this fails, then it is a fearsome display where they will hold their wings outstretched while still making a threatening noise to warn the intruder. If this still fails, then a full on attack is launched which involves dive-bombing at the intruder with sharp spurs at the leading edge of the shoulder. This is usually enough to keep intruders at bay.

No matter how big or small, no parent is to be underestimated!

Words by: Mitchell Huggins

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