by Mary Reid Barrow
LRNow had unusual guests at the annual oyster roast last weekend and the couple didn’t make a reservation and they didn’t buy a ticket.
In fact, the killdeer pair might not have been the party crashers. LRNow might have been the intruders.
Whoever got there first, both LRNow and the birds were at the View on Rudee Inlet the week before the roast when LRNow was setting up in the tent. Mama killdeer was out on the lawn, fit to be tied at the disruption, while papa fussed from the sidelines.
The beige and brown birds with two distinct rings around their necks had chosen to nest in the View’s grassy expanse. They picked an area where rocks and pebbles mix with grass and provide great camouflage for killdeer eggs that have the same coloring as their parents.
LRNow staff protected the nesting area with orange flags and chairs. Generally speaking, the View, which is not always in use was probably a wiser choice than many places killdeers choose for their homes.
Killdeers tend to nest in areas fraught with peril. They look for camouflaging rock out in the open where they make the most basic scrape in the ground for their eggs.
Over the years I’ve seen them in the most public of places, like the parking lots of Lynnhaven Marine on Shore Drive (pictured here), the Pavilion and the Central library as well as private driveways.
Though the birds tend to be very blasé about the location of their nests, they put incredible amounts of energy into defending them. Oyster roast coordinator Dominique Denson and her mother were alerted to the presence of the nest by a huge display of bravado from the killdeer that had egg duty.
When they got too close, the male or female sitting on the eggs launched a high-pitched, shrieking “killdeer” call and headed off the nest, one wing askew, acting as though it were broken, Dominique said. The bird moved away from area carrying on the high drama until it was sure Dominique and her mother were sufficiently distracted. Then it flew back to its eggs.
When baby killdeer hatch out, they are unusual because they are ready to move around and forage for insects independently, though parents keep an eye out for danger
It’s a wonder any baby killdeers make it beyond the egg stage, much less from babyhood to beyond but at least these have one oyster roast behind them.