The Nonconformist Killdeer

killdeer chick

Killdeer are certainly nonconformist. Sometimes I think they are just plain silly. I go back and forth between feeling bad for those that have laid their eggs in my territory and thinking that they are the dumbest of all birds. I can’t say they have made their nest, because they just make a little indentation in the stones and lay their eggs right there out in the open among the stones. Not in the trees to keep the babies safe; if not crazy they are certainly nonconformist in nature.

We had what seems like weeks of cold rainy days that added up to 11 inches of rain. This pair of birds took turns sitting on their eggs or trying to lure unwanted gawkers away from their eggs. They looked wet and pitiful and I felt bad for them. Today the sun was out and we noticed one egg was missing. On closer inspection, we see one of the eggs has hatched and the chick was lying lifeless outside the “nest” on the rocks, looking like a somewhat fuzzy rock. The parents had already disposed of the remains of the eggshell he emerged from.  I crept closer and wondered if he was really dead. Then he opened one eye and popped up and wobbled away like a drunken sailor trying to hop up into my raised garden.

I had never thought about it before but there are two kinds of baby birds, “cute” and “ugly”; yes really, I’m not kidding. Baby killdeer are the cute type, technically called Precocial, which means, “ripened beforehand”. They incubate longer and when they hatch they are fluffy and bright eyed, like chickens and ducks. Cute babies are ready to run as soon as their fluff dries out. They feed themselves, following their parents example. Ugly types like robins and blue jays are called Alticial, meaning “wet nurse”.  They are born almost naked and blind and are completely dependent on their parents. Interesting that human babies are both, cute (well not in bird terms) and alticial.

For now, every time I go outside I look closely where I step, afraid I will step on the killdeer chick pretending to be a rock and he is really good at it. Being a bit of a nonconformist myself, I guess I can relate.

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