One shorebird that nests on Dewees Island and all over the lowcountry is the Killdeer. Charadrius vociferus. It is a larger ringed plover, and on Dewees, they nest on grassy areas (the helicopter landing pad, the Moser’s yard) as well as in the dunes. The nest is just a shallow scrape in the sandy soil.
Killdeer get their name from their loud, persistent call. Adults can fake a broken wing to lure predators away from their nests.
The Killdeer is by far the most wide-spread and familiar of North American plovers because of the habitats it frequents, its tolerance of humans, its easily observed and often anthropomorphized parental care, and its killdeer vocalizations. Earlier common names, such as Chattering Plover (Catesby 1731) and Noisy Plover (Latham 1785), described the very vocal nature of this species. Once the target of market hunters and in serious decline, the Killdeer is probably more common today than at any time in its history as a result of habitat changes wrought by humans. At the same time, the species is vulnerable to twentieth-century problems such as pesticides, oil pollution, lawnmowers, and automobiles. (Birds of North America).
They eat earthworms, grasshoppers, beetles, and snails. Ginny saw this one nesting in her yard in late March. Like many other ground nesting birds, the Killdeer can stay very still and blend in with the surroundings.
When approached, she flares her tail, but does not try to lure us away from the nest on this day; perhaps she is already hiding chicks:
We were surprised to find the mother gone from the nest, but because they are so noisy, we were able to locate her on the other side of the yard. The chicks really blend in with their surroundings, and the easiest way to see them is to watch carefully for movement:
I was able to set up my tripod and grab some video footage, because the bobbing gait of these little guys is really fun to watch. Island buddy Walter Mashman provided the great music. You can even watch as one tucks under his mother’s wing! The video should autoplay below, but if you can’t see it, click this link.