We’ve all seen it – the flop. A soccer player goes down feigning injury or the basketball defender that exaggerates an offensive charging foul. The flop looks terrible but it can work. Today on a walk in the woods I saw a flop, but this one was from an Ovenbird.
The bird was calling with loud, incessant “chunk” calls. It was a mere 6 feet from my face on a branch and it wasn’t budging. Something was up. As I peered at the calling bird my wife whispered, “Kent, look at the bird on the path.” It took me a moment to find the bird just a few feet in front of us as it was frozen and well camouflaged, a very young fledgling that must have just left the nest moments ago.
I took a step forward to get a better look. The adult immediately jumped from its perch and landed just a few feet from me. With spread tail and wings it moved erratically about as if injured – ah, the flop. Perhaps if I was a predator I would have immediately gone for it. The healthy bird would have slowly led me away from the frozen fledgling. Once it felt it had led me far enough away, it would suddenly fly up to a branch appearing perfectly healthy. And like a good defender on the basketball court when they get the call after the flop, it wouldn’t outwardly show pleasure at the great ruse, but inside it would have a grin a mile wide.