COLUMN: Kildirs are loud and dramatic, but smart (9 pics)

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These Talkative Plovers Will Act Like They’re Hurt To Distract Predators From Nests, Columnist Says

It was an annoying noise that interrupted a lazy summer afternoon. I could tell it was a bird, but I couldn’t tell where exactly it was.

After about 15 minutes of hearing the call from home, I headed in the general direction the sound was coming from and walked through the trees. I also looked at the fence around the cow pasture because that’s where it seemed to come from.

The cows seemed quite tolerant of the shrill sound. Here a cow was mooing; there a cow was mooing. I imagined it was more against me than the irritating sound. It’s hard to tell with cows.

It was a quick movement in the grass that finally caught my attention. A slender bird ran, stopped abruptly and howled again. He was a contract killer. I heard the repetitive call of the killdeer which sounds like his name, but it was kind of a constant shrill beep.

The killdir is a type of plover and is considered a shorebird. They even know how to swim. Likewise, they also thrive in fields and other places away from water. Their nests are small depressions dug in the ground where there is short grass or rocks. Killdeer sometimes return from the wintering grounds singly and then pair up. Typically, they flock towards the end of summer as they prepare to head south.

Although mid-summer, this noisy seemed to be on its own. I don’t know what it was about. I understand they sometimes object when the cows are too close to a nesting site, so maybe that’s it. He may also have called a mate. The noise started long before I arrived, so it wasn’t me.

Allaboutbirds.org says, “Eighteenth-century naturalists also noticed how noisy killdeers were, giving them names such as talkative plover and noisy plover.” I feel validated.

According to Hinterland Who’s Who (HWW), “An adult bird will run with outstretched wings or fly directly towards any grazing animal that appears about to step into a nest or step on a chick. There are recorded cases of a cow hit in the muzzle. I would have liked to see that.

I watched the bird for a while to determine what it was, but at some point it flew away leaving no clues. I went back when the cows were further out in the pasture, hoping to see a nest. Every time I visited, I stayed outside the fence.

On the one hand, I didn’t want to step on a nest by mistake, and on the other hand, there is a bull with the cows. He seems to have a sweet demeanor. Still, it’s hard to tell with bulls.

First time I saw a killdeer here, he was walking up and down the driveway before the snow melted one spring. I could easily see his slender shape, coloring and long legs. I watched him pull the worms out of the gravel. Besides worms, they eat delicacies such as centipedes, crayfish, snails, grasshoppers, beetles and insects. Some of these things can be harmful to crops, so killdeers help farmers.

I have seen killdeers in open fields, and once witnessed the famous move of pretending to be injured to distract predators from a nest.

I like this description from hww.ca: “The bird is crouched on the ground with one wing outstretched and hanging as if broken. He collapses in a pitiful way, at the same time he cries out kill-dee-dee-ee as if in mortal pain.

The predator preys on the “injured” bird, which miraculously recovers when the nest is out of danger. It’s hard to tell with the killdeer.

I share the experiences of bird visitors to this property with readers every two weeks. Until next time, keep an eye to the sky and look for any passing birds.

To hear killdeer sounds, go to allaboutbirds.org/guide/killdeer/sounds.

Rosaleen Egan is a freelance journalist, storyteller and playwright. She blogs on her website, rosiewrites.com.

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