While walking in a park you notice a killdeer just ahead flyup and away a few feet. It’s dragging its wing along, calling in alarm and seems to be injured, you follow it to get a better look to see what’s wrong but it keeps going farther away as you approach. After following it for a few yards it makes a miraculous recovery and flies back to where it first was seen.
But this individual is actually not injured at all and is just a good actor. This bird is actually displaying a behavior called the injured wing act. This individual is actually purposely acting injured to lure you aka “potential predator” away from their carefully camouflaged eggs. To really get a threat’s attention it will use several tactics to really make itself look like an easy target and get the focus from the nest and babies to itself. From fanning its tail out, dragging its wings, limping and even fluttering on the ground, these effects come together to create a perfect act.
This display is a form of distraction display and is shown in many different bird species but is also seen in some mammal species. While seen throughout many different bird species, this tactic is mostly seen in ground nesting birds, particularly waders and plovers, whose nests are vulnerable to any predator walking along. For the most part it is a very useful tactic with up to a 90% success rate. Once they lure the threat farther enough away they will quickly leave and return back to their nest.