THE SEMIPALMATED PLOVER is one of the common shore birds in the far North and is a regular breeder in Mount McKinley National Park. It is about 7 inches long and in general appearance is much like the small killdeer plover. The killdeer has two black bands across its breast, whereas the semipalmated plover has only one. This trim little bird is white on its under parts and brownish gray above.
During the first week of June two of their nests were located on a gravel bar where rocks were extremely numerous. In fact, the nests were merely slight depressions amid the bare rocks. Like many other shore birds, the male performs most of the household duties, including incubation of the eggs.
On June 18, 1926, I found a brood of newly hatched plover chicks and procured the photograph on the opposite page. Upon seeing us, the parent plovers quickly gave their warning call, whereupon the chicks, with one exception, flattened out on the gravel, their heads and necks extended, and remained motionless. The lone chick that would not heed its parents command to hide kept running about picking up small insects and other bits of food at the water's edge. Plover chicks have unusually large and well-developed feet which makes it possible for them to run freely over soft mud without bogging down. The wayward offspring was a distinct source of anxiety to its parents. When it insisted on running about, in spite of repeated warnings, the father flew directly at it and roughly knocked it off its feet. But the chick still refused to obey. Finally, the father pecked it severely on the head, whereupon it stretched out its neck and at last lay still and motionless, but not for long.
This undue independence on the part of the chick proved its undoing a few days later when a jaeger or "robber gull" came flying up the river in search of food. The father plover gave his warning call and the other three chicks all flattened out and remained motionless, their gray backs blending so closely with the gravel that a person could scarcely see them, even when about to step on them. But the wayward chick, evidently believing that it was not necessary to heed its father, continued running about. The "robber gull" made just one swoop, grabbed the wayward chick in his bill, and swallowed it.
Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010