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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.
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.