It’s tough to be a mother bird. I’ve observed many different bird babies through the last few years. Just like people, there are good mothers and bad mothers. There are also difficult babies and easy babies. Here is a tribute to a couple of the mother birds, good and bad, that I’ve known.
The first killdeer family I watched grow up belonged to a pair of killdeer I named George and Martha. I was amazed at how good, and bad, killdeer parents are. I say “bad” because the poor parents didn’t really watch their chicks that closely. Being precocial, Their chicks just went everywhere and did anything they want. The parents mostly kept watch over the “area” that the chicks were at.
But, the chicks had an advantage in that they blended into the landscape so well that they were almost invisible. All they had to do was hear George or Martha scream the predator warnings and they would go hide or run away. Mom and dad were very vigilant. They were good at distracting eyes away from their chicks. Also, they seemed to know exactly where each chick was at any time. I knew this because even if the chick never made a sound, mom and dad knew where to find them when the needed warming up.
There was another mother bird I’ve seen raise several broods. This was the mother mallard duck that I named “Fish Food Mama”. I call her that because her ducklings almost became fish food the first time I saw her. Mother mallards have a reputation of being poor, inattentive mothers. This one seemed to have her act together. Yes, I saw her lose her attention sometimes, but mostly she was fairly attentive. I was always amazed how she kept her ducklings in line and how they strictly obeyed her commands.
Fish Food Mama was a fierce mother, sometimes. I once saw her take on a Cooper’s hawk. Later, I saw her attack another female duck more than twice her size. Another time, a large teenage female mix-breed duck jumped on one of her teenage babies. Mama saw it and, once she made sure everyone else was OK, she went back and got in a nasty fight with that other duck and put her in her place. She has also been seen breaking up fights between her teenage sons and strangers (she didn’t like strange ducks near her babies).
So, this Mother’s Day, not only honor your mother, but honor all the other mothers out there defending and taking care of their babies.