Saturday, May 22, 2010

Baby Killdeer

When we moved into our house several years ago, we noticed an unusual (to us) phenomenon. There were little birds in our neighborhood that resembled sandpipers, and they built their nests in our driveway. Our driveway is gravel, not concrete, but I had never heard of a bird that would lay its eggs in such a dangerous place. It took me a while to figure out what the birds were, but I finally learned that they are known as killdeer.

 Every year, we have watched the birds build these nests. When killdeer feel that their nests are threatened, they will pretend to have a broken wing and hop in the opposite direction of the nest, and we observe this behavior each time we go to the mailbox in the spring. I watch the nests and wait to see babies. Each time, I was disappointed to find a completely empty nest after weeks of waiting.

It broke my heart a little each time. The poor birds spent all that time caring for the eggs only to have a predator get them at the last moment, over and over. I began to wonder how on earth the species continued to survive.

Tonight, we had the surprise and pleasure of arriving home to find baby killdeer running across our driveway. I checked the nest, and yes, it was empty. I haven't found any information on nesting habits, but my guess is that the baby birds eat the shells for the calcium? If you know, please fill me in!

It was so cool to watch the baby birds run around, and their parents coral them. I wish I could have gotten a picture!


Anonymous said...

That is totally strange and interesting thing. I wouldn't have thought that a bird would do that either. Never seen it myself. Our hen has a nest right now on the ground hidden well. She's been safe so far. We should have diddles soon.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

I've watched killdeer nests and haven't seen them eating their shells, but the parents make a great effort to remove shells and drop them out of the area to protect the little ones. My granddaughter just picked up some dropped shells last week.

I love the little killdeer and their plaintive cry.

Love visiting your postings,

Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

Darlene! said...

Killdeer remove the eggshells soon after the babies hatch. I, once, thought a predator got a nest I was monitoring because the eggs all disappeared one day. The nest was about five feet from another nest that was destroyed by crows.

Well, I walked about twenty feet away and I saw the parents of the nest that disappeared with four healthy chicks. All four chicks are now grown. And the parents of the destroyed nest ended up trying again and hatching chicks six weeks later.

Unless you saw the destroyed nest in the previous years, it's extremely likely that the eggs successfully hatched and the family left the area after they did.