Killdeer Cute!

The call of a killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is distinctive—once you hear it you’ll never forget it. This afternoon, while walking the grounds at the old Tsolum School in Merville discussing Garry oaks with Loys Maignon of Comox Valley Nature, we both came to a stop when we heard a single bird calling from the playing fields. Even without binoculars, we soon spotted a second killdeer in the grass and a number of small birds nearby.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
Unlike some other shorebirds, Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) are found regularly on playing fields, golf courses, gravel rooftops, and other “non-shore” habitat.

When one bird began doing the classic “broken wing” routine in an attempt to distract us, we realized that the small birds weren’t sparrows. The pair of killdeer had successfully nested somewhere on the field and were shepherding a flock of four extremely cute, fluffy chicks!

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) Chick
One of four fluffy, flightless killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) chicks in the grass at Tsolum School.

I returned quickly to my office for my camera and managed to get a couple of photographs of both the adults and chicks without approaching too closely and stressing the birds out. They had enough to contend with with dog owners running their animals off leash and the school district’s grounds crew cutting grass and weed whacking. Fortunately the birds seem to be sticking to the upper playing field that is less frequently used than the lower field. They seemed to have escaped the mowing unscathed as well.

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
One of the adult Killdeers (Charadrius vociferus) in the gravel play pit. It was extremely hard to see the chicks in the pit because they blended in so well with the gravel.

It was great to see that this pair had successfully hatched their first(?) clutch and hopefully they will all make it to fledgling. At this point the chicks are flightless and are quite vulnerable. I’m thinking that it might be good to put a few signs up to let folks know to keep their dogs under control.