Killdeer makes nest in middle of Montgomery Ridge playground
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A growing family of killdeers has chosen Montgomery Ridge Intermediate School’s playground as its new home, and a busy location it’s turned out to be.
The pair of birds has nested on the ground in the middle of the playground at the Maryville school, something that’s not all that uncommon, said science teacher Stacy Haralson. She said these shorebirds are ground nesters and have been known to nest in parking lots, construction sites, golf courses — just about anywhere.
The students who first noticed the nesting birds are part of MRIS’s Adventure Club, the after-school program.
“After they found the nest, some of those kids took it upon themselves to make a little sign out of notebook paper,” Haralson said. “It said bird eggs. Do not disturb.”
That was several days ago. Haralson said when she was told about the birds, she went into her classroom and got some leftover crime scene tape and marked off a perimeter around the killdeers so they could maintain their space. The tape, the teacher explained, was left over after a forensics activity. Social studies teacher Tony Mills has also taken on this bird-watching project.
Hide and seek
Because of their brown color, the birds are very well camouflaged on the ground, Haralson said. The adult killdeers have a brown back and wings, a white belly and white breast with two black bands. They have a brown face and white forehead. Eye color is orange-red.
Killdeers aren’t new to Montgomery Ridge, staff members said. They have seen the birds nest in the concrete barriers in the parking lot, but never in the middle of the playground.
“They don’t really build a nest,” Haralson explained. “They find a conclave place on the ground, a cavity. What tends to happen is they find a place on the weekend when there typically aren’t people around. They think they have nested in a good spot. Then here come the students on Monday, running to the playground.”
Haralson said the students have been very careful around the birds and don’t get too close. These birds have a behavior they use when that happens, Haralson said. The nesting birds will remove themselves from the nest and pretend to be injured, to draw predators toward themselves instead of the nest. The bird not on the nest will also make shrill sounds and fake an injury to protect the unborn babies.
Both the male and female take turns sitting on the nest, and they are never far from one another. This growing family at Montgomery has four eggs in the nest. Incubation time is between 22 and 28 days. Haralson said the parents-to-be have been there since April 8.
It’s their home
“Where they nest might seem stupid to us,” this science teacher said. But, this is a thriving bird species so they are doing something right. They can be found across the Western Hemisphere. And despite being considered shorebirds, they often live far from water.
This whole experience has been a great learning environment for students. Haralson said she has incorporated lessons on adaptive behavior as they watch the birds in action.
Since there are still about four weeks of school left, Montgomery Ridge will likely get to see the new family members emerge. The babies are able to move around immediately after hatching.
The children haven’t been encouraged to feed the birds. They eat mostly insects. Haralson said the students have been very protective of them and can’t wait until the little ones hatch.
The killdeers have apparently adapted well to the playground setting. They are used to nesting around people.
“Life can be tough when you build a nest on the playground,” Haralson said.