Monday, April 27, 2020

Can You Find the Nest? A Near-future Killdeer Family on the Tuolumne River

The Killdeer (Charadrius vociferous) is a sneaky little bird that hides in plain sight. That sounds like some kind of negative judgment, but really I admire these little Plovers. I wonder sometimes how the species survives, given their habit of building nests right out in the open on stony ground, within easy reach of all manner of predators. And yet somehow they persist.

We watched a nest last year at the Great Valley Museum's Outdoor Nature Lab. This year, the Killdeer nest I "found" is along the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail, but not so much on the trail as on the grounds of the Waterford water treatment plant. They have gravel roads around the aeration ponds, and that's where the Killdeer put its nest. Luckily a city worker noticed and put up a traffic cone to protect the nest from being run over.

If a threat presents itself, the Killdeer will make a lot of distracting noises and actions. The Killdeer are famous for their broken-wing act by which they draw a predator away from the nest. And as you can see from the picture above, the eggs themselves are well-protected by camouflaged coloration.

I found myself wondering how the eggs avoid being fried by the sun in their rocky nest out in the open, but if you look at mama Killdeer watching her nest, you'll notice she is shading her eggs, not sitting on them.

I missed the hatching last year, but if the stars align I might get to see the babies this year, seeing as how my summer field classes got cancelled, and we are still on a shelter-in-place order. We'll see.

A final note...if you are wondering if I was invading the personal space of the bird in this picture, I was actually on a bluff around a hundred yards away. I love the zoom lens on my camera!

1 comment:

Barb said...

We have numerous Killdeer nests on the rock paths that border our acreage and Momma's "broken wing" screeches warn us to watch our footfall in these areas. The babies are tiny little things. I've often described them as little mushrooms with feet. Enjoy!