Killdeer on the Driveway

How to Help and How NOT to Help

killdeer with eggQuestion: We have a killdeer nest in our gravel driveway, with 4 eggs on it. I am afraid it's not safe for the birds. Can I move them to the side of the road, or put them in a birdhouse?

Answer: Don't move the eggs to a safer place. The parents know where to find them because they remember where they put them, just a titch away from that weed or some jiggy thing, and that's where they'll go to look for them. It's hard, but leave them alone.

To help, you could set up an obstacle to warn car wheels away. A sawhorse on each side, or an outdoor chair, will keep cars from driving on the eggs. Put the obstacles as far away from the nest as possible and still keep the cars off.

You can't move the eggs into a birdhouse. Killdeer don't nest in cavities. They wouldn't even know what the birdhouse was for, and they would never dream of looking for their eggs there. Not even if they watched you put the eggs inside.

Killdeer eggsQuestion: The killdeer have laid their eggs right on the bare rocks. I don't think the babies will be very comfortable. Could I put a small, soft pillow under them? (Photo of killdeer nest at right by Mary-Anne Burton, shown here with her permission.)

Answer: No, you won't help by going out and putting a little pillow under the eggs. Killdeer lay their eggs on the ground out in open, often among stones, hiding them in plain sight. The way they keep from being eaten by a snake, cat, fox, or crow, is by looking just like the rocks.

Question: They're coming this weekend to mow the edges of my driveway. I have an incubator that I've used to hatch chicken eggs. Could I use it for the killdeer eggs?

Baby KilldeerAnswer: Sorry, but no. It's against the law. And it's almost impossible to hand raise baby killdeer, even for experts. Baby killdeer are designed to hatch outdoors. (The photo at leftof a newly hatched killdeer chick is copyright Scott and Tami Barrick, shown here with their permission.)

Question: The killdeer have laid three eggs on our gravel path, and I haven't seen the mother all day, and I'm afraid she has abandoned them. I don't want them to die. If I brought them in my house, would I be able to hatch them and raise them? What should I feed them?

Answer: The eggs are not orphans. Don't adopt them.
The female lays four eggs, over a period of about a week. She mostly leaves them alone until the last one arrives. Meanwhile, the mother goes and gets some snacks or spends quality time with her mate before they get down to incubating the eggs. Even then the parents may leave the nest unattended from time to time. It's OK. The killdeer know what they're doing.

Question: Well, is there something I can feed the mother while she's sitting on the eggs?

Answer: No, don't try to feed the incubating birds on their nest. Killdeer forage on the ground for insects and other small invertebrates.

The parents don't feed the babies when they hatch. From the time they're hatched, the baby killdeer find all their own food and feed themselves. They watch their parents peck at the ground and then copy them, quickly discovering for themselves what tastes good. That's what this baby killder below is doing. (Photo by Tony Tafuni, used here with permission.)

Killdeer baby

Diane says: I didn't make up the misguided notions I'm counseling against here. They all came from phone calls and emails I've received from people who wanted advice about how to help killdeer they've discovered nesting on their property, usually on their gravel driveways.

DianeWe do like to get in there and make things better. It's only human. But we really can't improve on a killdeer nest. If you get a chance to observe killdeer nesting, watch them from a distance with binoculars or scope. Study them. Enjoy them. But let nature be.

© 2008 by Diane Porter



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