A pair of masked lapwings, commonly known as plovers, have proven to be model parents after deciding a Shepparton roadside was the best place to start a family.By Darren Linton
A masked lapwing has taken the strategy of hiding in plain sight to another level by nesting on the verge of a private Shepparton road with heavy daily traffic.
The road leads to a car park and each day hundreds of vehicles pass within a metre of the nest which is nothing more than a mound of loose gravel.
Australian Birdlife magazine editor Sean Dooley said like all members of the plover family the birds' nesting strategy was to be out in the open where they could see danger coming.
‘‘It is bizarre, but I think particularly for snakes and foxes they are taking advantage of a lot of car movements for added protection,’’ he said.
‘‘Their only defence is camouflage for the eggs and anything that lessens the instance of predators is a bonus.’’
Department of Sustainability and Environment wildlife ecologist Peter Menkhorst agreed, but added the nesting site would also aid incubation.
‘‘The gravel provides a nice warm environment for them to incubate,’’ he said.
‘‘They are very well developed when they hatch, they can walk and the parents might lead them away.
‘‘They are pretty good at protecting their eggs, they will scare away a cat or dog and will strike in flight with a bony spur on their wing.’’
The male lapwing is never too far away, switching between the morning shade of a speed sign and the afternoon shade of a nearby building to keep watch.
The birds ignore the constant traffic and a stream of people walking along a nearby path and only react of the nest site is approached.
‘‘They really get to know our habits, they are always watching us,’’ Mr Dooley said.
‘‘Because it’s on the edge of the road and well drained it is also a guarantee it won’t get flooded,’’ he said.
There are four speckled eggs in the nest, which Mr Dooley said typically take three to four weeks to hatch.
While plovers will harass and peck a snake to discourage it they also employ a most unusual deception to confuse and distract predators.
‘‘They also use distracting techniques including the broken wing display, where they trail along a wing as if injured and lead the predator away from the nest.’’
‘‘It’s like an Academy Award performance, they are very convincing, but just as the predator goes for the kill they miraculously recover and fly off.’’
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