Skip to main content

The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group, a place where everyone is welcome to note the observations you have made of the natural world around you. Fledglings, insects, blossoms, fish, climate, reptiles and/or amphibians: all are worthy additions to the bucket. Ask questions if you have them and someone here may well have an answer. All we ask is that you let us know where you're located, as close as you're comfortable revealing.
There are usually about 10 adult killdeer and 20 eggs pending this time of the year on the golf course in the north edge of Oregon's Willamette River Valley. Instead, this year, I found several handfuls of feathers, the only earthly remains of most of the adults, probably after some owls made a sweep.

The remaining killdeer are very wary, and I cannot easily determine how many have mated and nested out of the 4-5 remaining adults.  So I was happy to find an active nest with 4 eggs in it.  Those four eggs all hatched and the too-cute babies took to the fields, but I hadn't positively identified a second nest or a second hatching anywhere.

But a muttered prayer went from my lips to Goddess Fauna to Mamma and Papa Killdeer, and they've rapidly laid four more eggs.

Killdeer usually lay an egg, then another, and over the next few days, another two.  That first solitary egg looks lonely, and is untended, and it may take two weeks before all four are laid. Killdeer don't even sit on the eggs until all 4 are out, so they still hatch at the same time. Mom and Dad share the nest-sitting tribulations.

The killdeer laid these most recent 4 eggs pretty darned quick, over just a couple of days. Its a little unusual, and I'm grateful.

I've probably watched 20 or killdeer nests over the years. They've always laid 4 eggs.  Four eggs always hatched.  I've only seen two nests abandoned early on with an egg or two left to languish, but I suspect that was because predators killed the parents.

Killdeer nests are little more than a cup-sized depression scratched into hardpan. The killdeer have nested in some dumb places; a highway shoulder, in the mulch right under a golf course bench, even in a sand bunker that is supposed to be severely raked every other day.  The current nest is in the mulch near the rhodies, a dozen yards from the front door of the golf clubhouse, where hundreds of people pass daily.

Killdeer obsessively guard their nests by decoying predators away.  If an enemy approaches, the killdeer stagger away, one wing tiled askew, as if wounded, to lead predators away from the nest site. If the predator heads for the easy kill on the wounded bird, the killdeer leads them away 20 feet or so, then leaps up, makes a rude gesture with its white tail feathers, and flies away.

When I was taking the picture of the nest, I ignored the first "wounded" killdeer.

Then I looked up, and both mom and dad were now "wounded," side by side, screeching, wings and tail fanned out,wallowing like wounded roadkill, their backs broken, about to die.  I couldn't stop laughing, it looked like one was mocking the other.

But they were both angry, and when I left, they followed me onto the golf course, swooping overhead, landing in front, and then behind me, scolding, for almost half a mile.

I realized that when the killdeer also followed me two weeks ago, I had probably also stood near their nest and stared at it, triggering their never-seen-before stalking behavior.

I'll leave discussion of killdeer infidelity for another bucket.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site