Monday, May 25, 2009

Spring has Sprung

As I was strolling down the gravel road leading back to the barn I caught a glimpse of something black and speckled on the ground. After living in Arizona for so many years I've become programmed to see small quiet things on the ground (think snakes, scorpions, tarantulas eek!) Anyway, on this day I saw something else. Right in the middle of the roadway was a little nest containing 4 black speckled eggs. They're pretty large eggs at nearly 1 1/2 inches long. Aren't they cute!

My first thought was to wonder why the mommy nested right smack dab in the middle of the road, directly on the gravel. I had never seen that before. Suddenly I heard some aggressive chirping. I looked in the grass nearby and saw what looked like an injured bird. She was flopping, flailing her wings and acting as if she had been in a cat fight. Some investigation showed that this is the normal habit of the Killdeer.
Apparently they lay their eggs on the gravel with no other nesting material so they will blend in to escape being seen by egg eating predators. The mommy birds will separate themselves from the nest when danger approaches (me) and make themselves appear to be wounded and easy pickings to distract the intruder from their young. These birds are precocial birds, meaning that they stay within the egg longer than other many birds do. The eggs are larger and contain more nutrients allowing them to stay longer and therefore develop more prior to hatching. Apparently they will be nearly self sufficient when they're hatched, with a little tutoring from Mom. How long this process will take I don't know. I'm concerned about the location of this nursery and hope that we all remember not to walk or drive over it. I'm going to keep tabs on it and get pics up once the babies arrive if I can.

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