Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Killdeer - broken wing bird

The killdeer must be the bravest birds I know. They always build their nest - well, if you can call it a nest, at a high traffic area, like beside the road or parking lot. Recently I found one such home beside a parking lot for big farm machinery. Its only shelter were three scraggly mustard plants. Nestled in this home were four speckled eggs. Much to the chagrin of Mr. and Mrs. Killdeer, I went by this nest daily to take pictures and to see if the babies had hatched. Not until I looked at this picture, did I notice this border around the area. I wonder if the parents thought this was supposed to be some kind of protection or maybe it was a good luck charm. Be that as it may, God was looking out for this family.

On the days I brought my camera, the killdeer parents were especially protective, screeching frantically as I got closer or doing their best broken wing act to lure me away from their home. I was amazed how close I could sometimes get to the nest with one of them standing guard, daring me to come closer.

With each passing week, and with me wondering if I'd ever see young ones, the parents became more vicious, flying towards me and squawking madly as if to say, "We're not in the mood for company, at least not the human kind. What part of our screeches don't you understand?" I guess if they'd understand Hutterisch they would have known I was not going to hurt them.

At long last, some of the eggs hatched. That day, there were three tiny babies huddled around the remaining egg. This was exciting, as I had never seen killdeer babies. To be sure, Mama and Papa were there making sure I would not harm their children.

While my sister and I stood admiring these tiny wonders, all of a sudden, one of the babies shot out of the nest, running towards the road. Not a good idea - at any given time a tractor, four wheeler or any other vehicle travels on this road. So, we followed this tiny thing, to make sure it stayed safe. Clueless to the dangers, it sat down in the middle of the road, blending in perfectly with the dirt and gravel.

I picked it up and reassured it, that I would take it back to its nest...right after our photo op. It was so small, soft and sweet and I was happy that I got to hold it for a few minutes. I returned it to the nest and the parents finally realized that I wasn't out to hurt any of them, because I think this time their screeches sounded like 'thank you'.

But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;  
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
 Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?  
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind. 
Job 12, 7-10

On a linguistic note, the Hutterisch word for killdeer is 'Tscheiker' or 'Tscheikela' (little killdeer), which begs the question, which language does this word come from? Ours, is a German dielect, but we do have some words from other languages such as Russia and Poland. The German name for killdeer is 'Keilschwanz-Regenpfeifer'. If you know, I'd love to hear from you!


  1. Thank you so much for sharing these great pictures, your knowledge about the bird, and the Scripture! :) This is a neat post!

    I took a class on Birds & Botany this last semester, and we saw the Killdeer near the side of the road and near a railroad track. Our professor told us about that "broken wing" tactic and how it tries to protect its babies by luring others away... So incredible! My Statistics/Probability professor also mentioned the Killdeer once. It's an interesting bird!

    I checked my National Geographic bird guide, and the way it described the bird's call made it sound like that might be where the name came from ("kill-dee or dee-dee-dee"), but I'm not for sure about the origins of the name.


  2. Thanks, Amber! I read the same thing about the name. Interesting, for sure,

  3. Hi Linda, it's been years since I've seen my last killdeer nest, although you can kinda figure out the whereabouts by the parent killdeer, the louder and more frantic the screaming, the closer you must be! I'm not positive but I'm thinking the word must be Ukrainish, the word tcheinik (tea kettle) comes to mind the same "tch" sound and that is Ukraine...

  4. Only one time have I watched Killdeer bbies hatch and pop out of their eggs. I still treasure that one time...

  5. Thanks, Linda, for this heartwarming story! I agree that you can truly see God's hand in such tiny creatures, and to hold one confirms it all the more: what delicate and beautiful details it beholds, the tiny living thing!

  6. Linda,

    We usually have a Killdeer nest in the garden. The ladies put a circle of stones around so people don't step
    on it by accident. The kids always enjoy watching the parents do their
    luring away act. Sometimes they play along and give them the satisfaction of thinking their efforts are not in vain! The babies are very hard to follow and can hide right under your nose! Amazing

  7. This reminds me of our garden on the farm I grew up on. I love the sound of the killdeer and have always believed that it's name mimics its cry.
    I'm quite fond of this bird who bravely begins her family right on the dirt or gravel. Really great photos you captured!


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