Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Killdeer Rescue. Sorry, no snakes in this post.

After a hail storm the other day, we witnessed a hopeless situation as 2 killdeer parents had attempted to move their chicks. For those that don't know, killdeers are really pretty birds that are closely related to plovers. They fly very well, but nest on the ground, relying heavily on camouflage. Killdeer eggs are even colored to match the rocks where they're laid. Anyway, the chicks were stuck on the road because of the high curbs on each side. It wouldn't be long before the chicks were either hit by a car or eaten by a cat or dog. They needed help. My wife looked at me and pleaded with me not to get involved because we were in a hurry as usual. She knows me better than that. I first helped the larger chick over the curb and it ran quickly to some tall grass. The smaller chick was wet and seemed very weak. While I began to help the

smaller chick over the curb, both of the killdeer parents would come close to me and fake an injury by flopping all over the ground as if their wings were broken. This is just their instinctive behavior to draw predators away and is entertaining to witness. The smaller chick didn't run to the tall grass and was almost too weak to stand. In the confusion, one of the parents flew to the smaller chick and started pecking at it. I intervened and walked up to the chick and picked it up. As I walked back, I could tell my wife was completely thrilled that we were now going to adopt another animal. I quickly did some research on raising killdeer chicks and found out that it is impossible to do. Besides being against the law, even killdeer experts cannot raise killdeer chicks. This is because killdeer parents never feed their chicks. From the moment they hatch, killdeer chicks have to find their own food. They must learn how to find food by watching and learning from their parents. After learning this, I dried off the smaller chick and quickly ran it back to the area thinking that I might have sealed this poor chick's fate. I was relieved to hear the chick calling loudly back to the parents and they flew up to me and faked injuries again. I set the chick at the edge of the tall grass where the larger chick had gone and then I withdrew. One of the killdeer parents then flew up to the chick and I feared that the parent would again peck the chick, but the parent led the chick into the tall grass to safety. That was really good to see. It was a good feeling to think we helped this bird family.