ARTISTS AND BIRDS
by Marilyn and Keith Davis
"Just Happens Event"
If you miss living near a beach, and if you miss seeing and hearing those shorebirds, then just as dawn breaks, try walking past an empty athletic field, golf course, or any large grassy area. Chances are you will hear the familiar cries of one of our local Killdeer flying overhead . . . “kill-deer, kill-deer, kill-deer.” This species is one of the least water-associated of all shorebirds. The Killdeer naturally likes to be around some sort of water be it seep, trickle, sprinkler, or golf course pond.
When driving in the Washington fields, I stopped by Barnard Seegmiller’s used-to-be pond. At one time this was a busy, busy place. Today there was barely enough water to make it muddy around the edges of a make-believe, look alike pond. And there it was, a Killdeer, walking in the mud, as happy as could be. Me too! This was one of those special events people find when they just happen to look and see a spectacular bird. There can be a “just happens event” in your life. Maybe with a Killdeer, as spring approaches.
Killdeer aren’t fussy where they lay their eggs. The nest is merely a shallow depression in the ground fringed by some stones and blades of grass. The eggs are camouflaged with spots to disguise them as stone and make the nests resemble its surroundings. We have seen nests full of eggs in places like gravel berms next to a paved road.
When predators get too close to the nest, Killdeer go into their “broken wing act” to draw attention to the parent, and away from the nest. It’s a great diversion. Killdeer chicks hatch with their eyes open, and as soon as their downy feathers dry, they start moving about. The barely born chicks follow the parents wherever they go. They look like miniature adults. The difference is that the babies only have one black breast stripe. Baby Killdeer stay in the egg longer, so they are better developed, and less helpless when they are born.
Brenda Rusnell is the artist of this adult Killdeer. Look for the distinctive stripes and listen for the call. If you need more information, call 435 673-0996. Monthly meetings are every second Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. at the Tonaquint Nature Center. Monthly field trips take place the following Saturday and you can find more information on the trip schedule here. The public is welcome to both our meetings and field trips.
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