Saturday, May 24, 2008

We're Having Babies

No, Matthew and I aren't having a baby, Mr. & Mrs. Killdeer are having babies. I'm so excited.

A few weeks ago I noticed when driving up our driveway that a Killdeer would repeatedly run away from our landscape rock and across the driveway, right in front of the car. I thankfully was paying attention and never hit either the male or female.

I wasn't entirely sure what they were doing in our yard as I was under the impression that they were a shoreline bird. There is a lake right across the road from us but our yard is not lakefront property itself. I had to look up the bird in my handy-dandy Wisconsin bird book and sure enough it was a Killdeer. I read in a short little blurb about their nesting habits that they frequently build their nests in rocks or along railroad tracks.

I watched them for a couple weeks and even though the landscape rock is between the driveway and the front yard where the kids play they were still sticking around. I started to investigate along the driveway in the grass and found nothing that looked like a nest. They seemed to get the most upset when we were near the rocks, however, so I started looking there on Tuesday and still didn't see anything. On Wednesday you'd have thought I won the lottery. I found two little Killdeer eggs just laying in the rocks. No nesting material of any kind just two pretty eggs. Yesterday I saw three eggs! Even though we make a ton of racket in the yard just feet away from their nest Mr. & Mrs. Killdeer are sticking around. I am so excited to be to see a wild bird's nest and potential hatchlings up close.

I was worried about our proximity and scaring them off but I've read they tolerate people rather well. Although either Mr. or Mrs. does a very good broken wing impression to lure us away from their nest.

Also, the Killdeer is about the size of a robin but it's eggs are twice as large. The Killdeer babies stay in the egg twice as long and are ready to go as soon as they hatch. Despite the fact that they are rather wobbly on their new legs. Unlike the Robin babies that are born blind and completely helpless. I've read that the Killdeer young at one day old are like that of two week old Robins. This is a photo of a mama Killdeer and one egg. It blends in beautifully with the rock but, man, is it a large egg!

I was wondering too about the fact that the nights are still rather chilly here and the birds aren't always on the nest. How's that going to work? I found out that they typically lay four eggs, obviously not all in one day. The parents will not start sitting on the nest until all the eggs are hatched. The first egg, although in the nest longer will not start to develop until the warmth of the parent gets it going. All four eggs will develop at the same time as a result. Because the babies will be ready to go when they hatch the parents must sit on the nest a bit longer. Once the parents sit the young won't hatch for about 24-28 days. I'll have to be patient and wait a few weeks yet before I have to start dodging baby Killdeer on my way home from the grocery store.

I received this information mostly from a really neat bird watching site that also had all of the neat photos. I am too nervous to take the photos myself so I'm borrowing their shots. They said the young Killdeer are rather cute to watch as they follow their parents around looking for food. They are unable to fly for a week or so, I'm hoping that means we are able to enjoy them all summer.

Isaiah's eyes lit up when I showed him I finally found the nest with the eggs. He's really interested
in watching the parents and he's being careful not to
bother them.

Anna too is rather protective of the nest as a friend was over last night and we showed him the nest and Anna piped up to add, "A-oh-ic (Eric) you can't get close to the nest or the Mama will yeave."

I sighed and thanked her for reminding us.
Well, that's the latest on the bird watching excitement. If all goes according to plan maybe I will be able to get a couple photos of our baby Killdeer after they hatch. I'll check the nest again today to see if there are four eggs yet. If so, the countdown will begin. I may even get one of those really neat blog timeline things that count down an important day or event. Do you think they have an appropriate counter for Killdeer hatchlings?

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