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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

April 1998

Killdeer. Photo by Scott Nielsen, ©1998

Killdeer are near!

Some timely advice for watching the annual performance of a most theatrical species.

Photo © Scott Nielsen

Seems like killdeer are popping up everywhere these days! Visitors from all around the country and beyond have written us regarding killdeer sightings. We'd like to share a few of their comments with you, and offer some tips on what to do if a killdeer is nesting near your home.

I liked finding out about the killdeer bird. My wife and I have just purchased a 1.2 acre lot outside of Lewisville, TX and we are in the process of preparing the ground to plant bermuda seed and the other day we spotted a bird that was acting really strange. Later, we found two speckled eggs. In doing a little research, we found out that it was a killdeer.
David Haesle, Lewisville, TX

Thanks bunches for your page, I love it. It helped me to find out about killdeer. I had found some eggs; we were plowing a field and we ran over the nest. Luckily the eggs didn't break. I had to find out if it was possible to raise the eggs, but I guess it will be very hard to raise the chicks once they hatch.
Loni Amos, Whitehall, MT

We have two killdeer at out place. We couldn't figure out what was going on. Then we went out and found the eggs. It was just like you said, in the gravel or rock. We have a gravel driveway. I sure hope they make it. We enjoy all the animals here in the country. Thanks for the info.
Wren Malicki, Vacaville, CA

I have been watching a killdeer in our church cemetary for the past two weeks. I wanted to know how long it would take for her four eggs to hatch. Yours was the first web site that I found to give me the information.
Ted, South Carolina

I was wondering if you could tell me what to do. I have a killdeer nest in my driveway and we watch the birds everyday. The first egg was laid last Monday; the second one about Thursday. I have been waiting for the parents to return but there has been no sign of them yet. What are the chances of the eggs to survive – or should I take them in and put them under a light?
Trudi Carroll, Ontario, Canada

Bill Volkert, Wildlife Educator/Naturalist at Wisconsin's Horicon Marsh Wildlife Area, offers the following information to help you protect and enjoy killdeer:

"Killdeer commonly nest on the ground on bare soil, gravel or other open areas of sparse vegetation cover. They hide their nests with the excellent camouflage of their eggs, which closely matches the background color. (It's not known if they can change the color of their eggs to blend in with the various backgrounds or if different birds select different substrates to match the color of eggs they lay).

"Killdeer will lay one egg every day or two until the clutch of four eggs is completed. There often is a delay between the laying of the first and subsequent eggs.

"The birds will not begin to incubate until the clutch is completed. This way all of the eggs begin to develop at the same time and all of the young will hatch on the same day.

"Killdeer have an incubation period of 24 to 26 days - both male and female incubate the eggs. Incubation will begin when all four eggs have been laid and upon hatching the young will leave the nest and follow the parents within 24 hours.

"If there's a killdeer nest near your home (in the driveway, for instance), you may want to mark the location of the nest for others so that they don't destroy it. I would suggest a colored stake located nearby, but not right on top of the nest. You don't want to mark the location as a quick meal for potential predators.

"If the birds fail to return to the nest within about a week or so I would assume that they have abandoned the site due to the traffic and disturbance. If they have abandoned the nest site, they soon will select another and raise another clutch.

"The eggs you find left behind are not easily incubated artifically. Even if they are still viable, it would require a lot of attention to keep the temperature exactly to their needs and also turn the eggs often enough and tend to them as well as the killdeer would.

"It's best to leave the nests and eggs alone. Just sit back and enjoy the presence of these birds over the nest few weeks. If nesting is successful, you will see the very small young killdeer running around within a month, as they feed and grow up throughout the summer."

Want to know more? See our story A call from above in the April 1997 issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources.