Careful what you ask for because here’s more on the Killdeers. As you may remember, we left the Killdeer family with four new eggs and both parent Plovers caring for the nest.
I read up on some of the Killdeer behaviors and found out they’re quite an interesting bird (part of the Plover family) that even birders think are very exclusive as far as animals are concerned. The gestation period for instance is nearly a month (roughly 24-28 days) which is quite a long time for a bird to stay cooped up in an egg. The mother and father are equal partners on watching their temporary home and they look identical. If it’s true what they say about the difference between the male and females, I agree that one of them (the female) was steadier and more reserved, while the other (male) was more apt to run all over the place. A couple times we even would walk within four or five feet of the nest and the female wouldn’t move. At any sign of us and the male took off running all over the hill with the whole bag of tricks – screeching and running at us or doing the broken wing act, etc.
During the first couple of weeks, we had some very cold weather and in fact it was below freezing for a couple days. The freeze did tremendous damage to the wine grapes here on the Central Coast of California (unusual for April). It also hailed for almost an hour but when I checked a couple days later, the entire family was still intact.
A day or two later, we (actually, this time my mom) walked up to check on them and whoops! There were only three eggs in the rocky nest. Upon further notice, one of the eggs had rolled some three feet away. How? Killdeer alert – what to do?! No idea, but the upcoming days saw the egg moved around inch by inch ever closer to the nest where eventually it made its way back a week later. Also, the eggs are all pointing narrow end in. That’s normal according to research. The harrowing saga of the rolling egg was over.
After the traumatic egg roll, now it was time to see when the chicks would hatch. Interestingly, research stated because the birds stay in their eggs much longer than normal, within only a few hours of hatching, the baby Killdeers will follow their parents around to learn how to find food. Mom and Dad Killdeer don’t feed them, just watch over and show them the ropes, so-to-speak.
How the eggs and parents had dodged the cats and other varmints is beyond me. But now four weeks had passed and still no chicks. We were wondering if maybe they weren’t going to make it after all this angst – Whose angst? Well they were growing on us a bit.
On what was either the 30th or 31st morning, laying in the pebbly nest, looking tired and worn out was a baby chick. It didn’t look too good but then some hours later I checked on them again and voila! Another chick had hatched, also looking bedraggled; but the first one was now all plump as its feathers had dried. Next morning, chick number three popped out. Now both parents were there and they were going fanatical every time we got close – two Killdeers doing simultaneous dueling broken wing tricks. It was wild to watch.
That second day would have those chicks running all over the place and the parents running after them constantly. The chicks make a little peep sound everywhere they went. The adult Killdeers must have wondered what they had gotten themselves into. I was concerned as to how they would get through too many more nights without a cat getting a snack out of it. The reason for the concern was it takes these chicks almost three weeks before they can fly.
Then there was one … or none
Morning of day three had one of the chicks running around the hill followed closely by both parents – according to my mom who was constantly checking up on them. Where the other two were, we didn’t know and the fourth egg still hadn’t hatched. In the afternoon, I went up to the nesting and surrounding areas but it was quiet. No birds – neither chicks nor adults could be seen or heard. We checked a couple hours later and still nothing. Something must have consumed the last chick and the parent Plovers apparently had left. Obviously the fourth egg wasn’t going to hatch.
In one fell swoop, the Killdeer chronicle ended. The one unhatched egg was still there which we left for the Scouts. Not being a big fan of watching birds, this was quite an out-of-the-ordinary account to follow first hand. Whether any Plovers decide to use the hill for another try is for nature to figure out.
PS: A week later, one of the Killdeers came back to the hill, made some noise for a short time and then left. We’ve never seen any since. The End.