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March 30, 2010

KillDeer & My very own Egg Hunt

Part of what I LOVE about living in the country is being so close to wildlife. If I'm lucky, I can actually photograph some interesting things. Just recently, I noticed two birds hanging out on the gravel near our lawn. They seemed a bit out of place because, one, I had NEVER seen this species of bird before and two, they spent more time hopping around on the ground than they did flying and lastly, when Chloe (puppy) was outside running around or on potty time, the birds would act as though they were trying to get her attention. Almost taunting her. I didn't know what to think. Hawks and at night, owls have hovered over Chloe but not usually small birds. The birds have distinctive black and white stripes at their neck. Before I tried to find the species on-line, I thought I should ask Dominic first, this might save me some time. After describing the bird to Dominic, he thought they were named 'KillDeer'. He also told me that he's only seen them in 'Joey's' (horse) pasture. I googled 'KillDeer' and sure enough, there they were. This is what they look like. I snapped these photos from my car as I was driving out.

Through my research on-line, I found out some very interesting facts about this species of bird. Both male and female take part in all the nesting activities. The nest is on the ground at a site that provides a good view from all sides. Fields, barren open spots, gravel bars, and closely grazed pastures (sometimes near or on dried-out cow or horse manure) are common sites. The nest is a shallow scrape sometimes lined with pebbles, broken grass stems, and limestone or wood chips. The female lays four or, very rarely, five pear-shaped eggs, which are large and blunt at one end and pointed at the other and average 36.5 by 26.5 mm in size. The eggs are irregularly spotted, blotched, or scrawled with blackish-brown or black, and always neatly arranged in a circle with the pointed ends turned inwards. Since the eggs can be damaged by excessive heat or cold, they are rarely left unattended. Both the male and female take turns incubating them, or keeping them warm. On very hot days the attending bird may stand over the nest, shading the eggs with its body, at the same time allowing cooling breezes to circulate over them. Since the KillDeer has a view in all directions from the nest, it spots intruders right away.......like Chloe and tries to distract her right away.

Ah Ha! This explains it!

When Chloe is outside, one of the birds flies and sings in the air trying to taunt the her. If this doesn't distract Chloe, the other bird acts as though it has a broken wing on the ground and is unable to fly. Once Chloe gets close to the bird, it flies away. This is amazing to me. The bird is luring Chloe away from the nest. This is a characteristic of the species.

Here, the KillDeer is faking her broken wing for Chloe (I had Chloe on leash to see how this all worked)....... Flapping one wing while the other lays on the ground..... After reading all of this information, I was on a mission to find that nest and those eggs! My very own Egg Hunt. I watched from my window to see where the birds hung out when nobody was outside. I searched. I found. I took photos.

Look how camouflaged these are........

I have not shown the eggs to the kids for fear of later finding them in the house in their bedrooms, tucked away in a box or worse....under their pillows. I hope the eggs survive. Incubation is around 24 days. I'll keep you posted. Chloe is going to require being kept on a leash when I take her out to go potty when and if the babies hatch.

Have you ever seen this species of bird? If so, have you seen their nest and or babies?

Happy Tuesday!

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