Killdeer adapt to difficult life around humans

Spinning tales about the killdeer, which is an attractive shore bird.  Both male and female are similar: brown and white coloration with distinctive black bands on the breast and head. Yet, the piercing call, after which it is named, frequently confirms its identity.

Essentially, the killdeer is moderately tolerant of people.  Uprooted by human encroachment, it has adapted. It might nest on bare soil, a gravel rooftop or in vegetation not taller than an inch. It might select a golf course, athletic field or airport grounds.

In May, on my evening walk, shrill bird chatter startled me while crossing a parking lot. A bird hovered above, shrieking incessantly.  It was a killdeer. The commotion alerted me to scrutinize the area. Nearby, another killdeer, was settled on a nest which was basically a slight depression in the gravel. The bird blended well.

The pair most likely favored the parking lot because of the availability of insects and worms on the shore of the adjacent pond — the adults are proficient swimmers. Surely, the night lights facilitated the nocturnal activities of calling, socializing and foraging. 

On my subsequent strolls, I kept my distance and the brooding bird seemed undisturbed. (The killdeer pair share incubation.)  Brooding persisted even during a rainstorm.  

Only once did I witness an unoccupied nest. At that time, one bird was eagerly feeding a few yards away. It walked erratically on its long legs. Intermittently, it stopped with a jolt. The other killdeer was performing the broken-wing display, dragging both wings and feigning injury to draw attention away from the nest.

A few weeks later, the nest was deserted. The eggshells were removed, as is the habit. I did not witness the newborns, but another sentinel confirmed three active hatchlings. 

In southern locations, the killdeer might reproduce more than once. Usually, around four eggs are laid, camouflaged by their speckled buff shells. Since incubation begins at the same time, the eggs hatch simultaneously in about 24 to 28 days.

Newborns resemble the adults — fluffy replicas on stilts. The chicks are precocial nest fugitives: relatively mature and mobile.  After birth, as soon as they are dry, they scurry with their attentive parents searching for their own food. In roughly 25 days, they have the capability to fly (fledge). In comparison, altricial chicks are nest dwellers: underdeveloped and need to be fed.

Similar to the killdeer, many birds have altered their behaviors.  For example, nests have been built in car shock absorbers or inside potted plants. Furthermore, experts claim that more species sing at night in order to communicate before the onset of daytime noise pollution, as from motor vehicles.

Creatures that have not adjusted to change, often remain in hiding. Yet, during the recent pandemic, with less human activity due to self-quarantine, animals emerged from remote shelters. Therefore, experts suggest the restriction of tourists from certain ecosystems in order to give imperiled animals more space.