Imprint Process Failure?

While I was sitting near the stand of grass where the Indigo Buntings frequent – trying to get some good shots – I heard this tiny chirp. Then, another and another until I was able to locate the source. It was an itty bitty baby Killdeer chick.

Killdeer chick vocalizing his distress with being lost.

He was walking aimlessly about. “Chirp! Chirp! Chirp!”

His voice was screaming, “Help me!” and my nervous system was feeling like I needed to do just that. It is interesting how baby animals are designed to attract assistance – even across species. When I raised sheep, I was often held hostage by the sound of a lamb; aching to locate the babe in peril. Often, however, the mama was fifteen feet away grazing while she permitted her little one to learn how to self-sooth.

Back to the baby Killdeer, which by the way is a completely ridiculous name for a little bird. I know that it defines the sound that the birds make, but I can think of a dozen better ways to interpret that vocalization than the designation it was given.

Little Killdeer chick.

Interestingly, the local farmers were crop dusting their soybeans, and the planes were flying low to the ground, tilting their wings at extreme angles and then soaring back to a respectable height. That is exactly what happened when the (assumed) mother of this chick performed a fly-by of her own.  From seemingly out of nowhere, she approached, took a good glance at the chick, then flew off.  She repeated the mission a second time, then she was gone.

Meanwhile, little fluff-ball continued to chirp away and walk in circles.  While my attention was back to the Indigo Bunting which had arrived, the mama Killdeer landed and began her quest to get that little chick’s attention. 

The mother Killdeer

For several minutes that mother bird called to her chick and for the entire time, he seemed completely aloof.  I expected that the little one would race towards his parent, but that is not what transpired.   I finally decided to get the weirdness on video.  Spoiler Alert:  I never got to see the happy ending I had hoped for.  Robert arrived from a job and I wanted to meet up with him to see how it went and discuss dinner plans!  So, I can only hope that the wayward little bird eventually chose to follow his mama because our neighbor’s cat has killed more than one wild bird on our property. 

I took this photo of our neighbor’s cat in the field just next to where the little Killdeer chick was walking aimlessly.

Today, I was not able to get outside before we were hit with an intense storm. I have been thinking about that little chick. I hope he hadn’t separated too soon or too long before he imprinted to his mother and that they are together, again.

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