Killdeer Performance

Whoa! Whoooaaa! I know. I know, I’ve been slacking. It was morel season, what do you want? Just because I’m not as rich as a king doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to eat like one.

And in my time, out in the wilds of the great green North, I came upon something very unique. No, not a mushroom. It was a performance. A performance meant just for me. Not something you’d first expect when wandering alone, trying for the time being to forget about the business of entertainment - of performance.

In fact, what I came across was a bird. An injured bird, apparently. She was lying by the side of a rocky path, splayed out and whining. When I approached her she got up and retreated, dragging her wing.

Unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - as with most forms of media programming, I was aware all too quickly of what was going on. I’d already heard about this performance though I’d never witnessed it before myself. And it was a performance. She wasn’t really injured. She was acting.

The bird was a killdeer. I’d unwittingly happened upon its nest. And, as is customary in killdeer culture, it got up to greet me with its performance. See, not unlike most performers in other animal species, killdeer are very passionate though not entirely practical minded individuals. This is evidenced by the fact that they build their nests and lay their delicious eggs on the ground, accessible to just about any and every predator. As such, killdeers have evolved to protect their brood by distracting and leading away potential poachers with their broken wing act and then themselves flying to safety. Pretty crafty.

In the vicinity of my personal killdeer, as a matter of fact, I’d come across a pair of headless and gutted crows. There was undoubtedly a fox or something of that carnassial nature in the area. And as I watched this incredible bird, cry her distress call and roll around in mock agony, I realized just what serious business this act of hers was. This wasn’t a joke. This was life and death. She was not equipped with the natural instincts of her peers to build a nest in a tree that would afford it protection. Nor was she gifted with the strength nor talons to be able to defend her offspring in combat. No, she was burdened with a unique - if not sort of embarrassing talent… Performance.

In human terms, we’ve given it different names - entertainment, exhibition, spectacle - but really we’re talking about the same thing. Using your sole, unique talent to survive.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I felt a sort of kinship with that bird as I watched her watch me over her shoulder, as she hammed it up. Putting it all on the line. Desperate to win over the audience. The art of pretend meeting the cruel reality of the world… And I almost - almost - felt a pang of guilt as I gathered up her eggs and gobbled them up.

Ack! Help me! I’m dying!

Did he buy it?

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