News

Will they survive? Killdeer lays eggs along busy roadway

"In the world of killdeers, the male picks the nesting site. Perhaps that explains why such a stupid location was selected.On Double Bluff Road, four killdeer eggs sit on bare gravel, harrowingly close to passing cars and trucks speeding down the road. The mother killdeer feigns a limp and broken leg as an approaching heavy truck hauling a bulldozer approaches, but what might work for foxes fails to distract the truck. It whizzes by and the rattled killdeer flies off, only to return soon to her precarious perch atop her precious brood.Lori Hastings stumbled almost literally across the nesting killdeer and her eggs when taking her morning walk last Friday. An animal lover, her first instinct was to protect the bird and its eggs, so she enlisted the help of Brian Doherty who lives nearby. Doherty found an old traffic cone and Hastings fetched two sawhorses, and the nesting bird quickly had at least a modicum of protection.Hastings wasn't hopeful the bird's eggs would survive along the road until they hatch -- not with walkers, bicyclists, equestrians and motorized vehicles all in proximity. But she felt she had to at least try.Amazingly, the barricades seems to be working. The eggs survived the busy weekend, according to Doherty, who checked on their condition Monday. It looks like the county put out cones, he said. They're still plopped there.The long-term prognosis for the killdeer eggs isn't good, however. Ann Campbell, president of the Whidbey Island Audubon Society, said killdeer eggs take 24 to 28 days to hatch. I don't think it's going to happen, she said, shortly after Hastings had described the situation to her. This is a poor choice for a nest site.According to Campbell, killdeers are well known for their poor selection of nesting sites. In fact, they don't even build a nest -- the female lays the eggs on bare ground, and the male shares the nesting duties until they hatch.I have a feeling this is a dumb, perhaps immature killdeer, Campbell said. Her copy of The Field Guide to Western Birds states that killdeer nests have been found in heaps of broken glass, on airport runways, and between rails of railroad tracks in use. The male chooses the site, called a scrape.Campbell later added that she consulted natural history experts on the island and they agreed, There would be no good outcome if the eggs were moved, while recognizing there is a certain vulnerability where they are now.I'm disturbed by it, Campbell said. But I don't have a good recommendation.But who knows? Now that they've survived their first weekend on Whidbey, the eggs and their feathered protectors just might survive until hatching time. Hastings and Doherty are keeping an eye on the eggs, as are other area residents.If the eggs do hatch, the baby birds have a chance because they can take care of themselves almost immediately.They're born with feathers, Campbell said. They're ready to rumble right away."

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Sep 17 edition online now. Browse the archives.