Closeups with Killdeer

This gallery contains 3 photos. Killdeer are beautiful, slim shorebirds that I’ve long envied other photographers for being able to get close to. It’s not that I haven’t seen them before. I have seen them engaging in courtship and mating rituals, and in flight–but from so far, far away that even a spotting scope or super long lens (neither of which I have) wouldn’t be able to do them justice. That all changed on July 7. This is the male, who on two separate occasions took the skies and circled around us. We thought nothing of this, as we had seen this flight behaviour before. See more examples of the Weekly WordPress Challenge: Beneath Your Feet here.

Closeups with Killdeerwhy so close to us? is that a look of invitation from this “postage-stamp” bird?
f/8, 1/800, 150-500 mm telephoto lens, 500 mm, ISO 400

This is the female. No dimorphism here–she looks like a twin to her mate. At first, I couldn’t figure out why she kept walking away and turning her back on us, while keeping her head and eyes trained on us. I thought, “She must be awfully comfortable with us to do this.”

Closeups with Killdeershe’s playing the broken wing card. we just haven’t figured it out yet.
f/8, 1/800, 150-500 mm telephoto lens, 500 mm, ISO 320

After a few minutes, we had our epiphany. She was playing the broken wing card oh so very subtly, and trying to take us away from a scrape that held her four beautiful speckled eggs. She had built her nest close to the walking path–so close, as a matter of fact, that if we were less observant, we may have even walked into it without knowing. Luckily for her, that did not happen. It puzzled me why Killdeer make their nests out in the open; it makes the unhatched so vulnerable, and a Bald Eagle–a typical Killdeer predator–actually flew overhead during an unguarded moment.

Closeups with Killdeerthe mother-to-be sits down to keep her precious clutch safe and warm.
f/8, 1/800, 150-500 mm telephoto lens, 500 mm, ISO 400

Killdeer are migratory, monogamous shorebirds named for the piercing, onomatopoeic calls that they make. Their diet includes insects and crustaceans. We saw no fewer than six of these, including this breeding pair. Killdeer eggs can take up to almost a month to hatch. I hope these little babies-to-be have started their new lives!

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61 thoughts on “Closeups with Killdeer

  1. AWESOME photos! I especially love that last one where you can see the eggs so clearly. 🙂 We have them all over the place here. I was telling another blogger friend that once while we were heading into town, we saw a pair walking around a busy (well, busy for a town of 80,000 people) intersection. And, isn’t it just crazy they make their nests out in the open on bare ground? We’d almost stepped on a nest ourselves. Wacky birds, but they are adorable.

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  2. A lovely post with a nice story. At first glance I thought it was a tall Ringed plover, but then again they are both of the Plover family! If they are like our ringed, they nest on the ground because there is less competition with other birds here and (until relatively recently) there were less ground predators, I think mostly of rats and cats here. Or it could be so that the chicks who are mobile soon after hatching don’t have to jump out of a tree! Just speculating though.

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    • I like your speculations! 🙂 other than the roving Bald Eagles, there aren’t that many predators in that particular area. it is, however, somewhat popular with birders, bikers, and walkers.

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      • wow, army sites!

        my two cents — I think that the choices creatures make are guided by the elements that they see underneath our manmade devices.

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      • I think it’s because the army site here generally end up being heath-land that doesn’t get developed. I think I would have to agree with you, they will chose what they think is best as long as it is there for them.

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    • thank you! they were coy indeed, until they realized that we represented no threat to them, and the mother returned to sit on her eggs.

      of course, having a long lens helps us to get close without really having to get close! 🙂

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  3. Beautiful photos :-). I’m so glad you got an opportunity to see some Killdeer up close and a nest too! I’ve seen a handful, but not super close and no nest. I did get to feel some of the excitement when I saw your photos and read your story though. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for bringing back wonderful memories with your great pictures. Growing up on the farm, killdeers were so much a part of my life, and now I haven;t seen one in years. Too many people. Too much progress. And in this area we lost these wonderful birds. Again, thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thank you, Don.

        I agree with you. it is a sad reality that human progress has been the direct cause of the alarming declines of many a bird species.

        I’m glad my post brought back special moments for you, even if now they are bittersweet recollections.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Semipalmated Plover | W.H. SIM PHOTOGRAPHY

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