With local food sources increasing, our area hosts many mating and nesting flying friends.
By Mark Keegan
With local food sources increasing, our area hosts many mating and nesting flying friends. One particular species, the killdeer, is fond of laying its eggs on rocky, gravel surfaces. It makes use of this surface as camouflage for the spotted dark eggs.
Every year, the parking lot at Manursing Island Club becomes home to a few killdeer families, not always in the safest place. For just short of four weeks this year, a killdeer couple called a space in the parking lot home.
Most species of birds are born completely helpless, relying on their parents to feed and care for them in the nest for several weeks. Killdeer are an exception. As a precocial species, they are able to feed themselves almost immediately. The hatchlings bust out of their shells, fluffy with feathers, and immediately stretch their legs looking for food. (This is the reason for their long incubation period and larger eggs.)
The killdeer mom and dad share egg-sitting duty, incubating the eggs around the clock. When danger — in the form of an owl, fox, or coyote —approaches the nest, the parent on duty will put on quite a show.
Mom or dad will limp away from the nest feigning injury, dragging his or her wing, and looking feeble. Survival of the fittest kicks in for the predator as the chase gets underway for this bigger meal. As the predator is led away from the nest and comes ever closer to its snack, the killdeer takes flight with a signature shrill, as if to say, “Better luck next time, loser.”
The killdeer are named, not for their much larger-hoofed forest mates but for the high-pitched shrill Kill-dee sound they are fond of making.
Manursing Island, long home to fine waterfront residences, is also now home to a family of five shore birds making their way.