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Friday, March 11, 2011

Legs eleven? No, just nine for the mother bird keeping her little chicks warm


Birds of a feather: The piping plover parent provides warmth for its four chicks

Are you pulling my leg? This bird got a photographer twitching with excitement when it went for a walk on the beach.

At one point, the piping plover looked like it had a staggering nine legs as it took its four newborn chicks under its wing to keep them warm.

It would have 'had' ten limbs but one was obscured by the others.

The chicks are able to walk and feed themselves within a few hours of hatching but they have to huddle together for the first week to keep warm. They can fly after one month.

Photographer Michael Milicia, 53, snapped away as the young shorebirds hid from view at Sandy Point State Reservation in Massachusetts in the U.S.

The reservation is a popular nesting site for the threatened species and access to the beach nesting areas is often restricted.

Home to roost: One of the chicks decides to brave the elements while its siblings remain undercover

Michael said: 'The chicks are very independent and wander in all directions with no control from the parent.

'If they wander too far, the adult bird will call and the chicks will return.

'For the first week after hatching, the chicks are unable to maintain their own body temperature. They must periodically return to one of their parents to be brooded under the warmth of their protective wings.

'I took the picture as the adult plover took the four chicks on a stroll to feed outside of the protected nesting area.

'In one image, there are four chicks under the parent. One leg of one chick is mostly obscured by another so there are only nine legs clearly visible.

'The chicks are less than a week old as the parent will only brood chicks for the first seven days or so after hatching.'

Michael, from Massachusetts, said it was unclear whether the brooding parent was male or female because they look 'pretty much identical'.

He added: 'I most often lie flat on the beach and move around by crawling commando-style with the camera mounted on a ground pod.

'This not only yields more intimate, eye-level images but also serves to disassociate you in the mind of the birds from the form of a threatening human.

'Once you are down on the ground, you are quickly accepted into the birds' environment and will often have shorebirds approaching you from all directions.Some of them even come too close to focus.

'When I am finished photographing, I either wait for the birds to move away from me or I slowly back well away from them before standing.'

source: dailymail


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