A Killdeer is a medium-sized plover with an unfortunate name but truly adorable babies. I photographed this endearing scene while on a lunch break in May, just walking around Providence. Killdeer get their name from their shrill, wailing kill-deer call.
In late June, I was riding my bike when a Killdeer appeared and started to yell while running through a parking lot. Since I’m familiar with Killdeer behavior, I knew this male was protecting a nearby nest and running away from it with the hope I would follow. But, his plan backfired because I now knew there was a nest somewhere nearby. Once I spotted the female sitting in the gravel, I made sure not to get too close as to scare her away. I didn’t stay long, just snapped a few photos so she would still feel undiscovered.
Can you spot the female Killdeer sitting in this picture? I’ll post the answer below.
Killdeer nest on the ground, usually on sand or gravel which their eggs have evolved to match. Sometimes people will put a small sign near a nest so passersby are aware to keep dogs away, etc, but this nest was in a location I felt was safe so I left it alone. Her camouflage was amazing, she didn’t need any help from me.
Days later, powerful thunderstorms passed through and I wondered if the Killdeer and her eggs would be blown away… but when skies cleared she was still there, sitting pretty. You can see one egg in this photo – grey with black speckles.
A few days later it was very hot so the mom stood up and walked around to cool off, which fortunately allowed me to see she was incubating four eggs in total.
I did some research and calculated the eggs would hatch around July 19, so I didn’t visit for couple of weeks. On July 18, I was happy to see the devoted mother was still there incubating sealed eggs. On July 19, I was hoping to see maybe one or two of the eggs had hatched, but to my surprise all four eggs were now replaced by four sleepy hatchlings…
The surprises continued when all four stood up and started running around, curiously exploring the new world outside their eggshells, less than 24 hours after hatching.
Mom had a hard time keeping the newborns under her wing! The dad was not there to help – I had not seen him since the very first day I encountered this family. Unfortunately, I do not know what happened to him.
The next day the entire family was nowhere to be found. There was no reason to stay around the nest anymore. Ground-nesting animals have to grow up quickly to avoid predators. Hopefully they all safely found their way to water and will live long and happy lives. The oldest known Killdeer was 10 years 11 months old. [source]
Here’s the answer to the “find the killdeer” challenge: