Monday, March 21, 2016

Ground Nesters

Image from
Celebrate Urban Birds Project
Cornell Ornithology Lab

A few days ago Sharkey wrote about the mourning dove in her neighborhood.  Comments were made regarding the sloppy nest-building habits of the bird which got me to thinking about other birds I have observed whose nest building consisted of little more than scratching in the earth, if that.

The above picture of a killdeer with her eggs is a typical representation of a killdeer nest.  We had a pair of these birds directly across the road from our house for several years.  To their credit, the area in which they nested was surrounded by a six-foot chain link fence and experienced little traffic, human or otherwise. 

These birds usually pick a gravelly spot in which to place their eggs, for the camouflage of spotted shell blends nicely with pebbles.  Anyone who has observed these birds is familiar with the "drawing" activity and the "broken wing display" as the bird attempts to distract an interloper from the nest. 

The black skimmer is another bird that nests on the ground.  A few years ago we were privileged to spend part of an evening on a spit jutting into the Gulf at Rockport, Texas.  This area was inhabited by various shorebirds, but of most interest to us was the black skimmer.  I was lucky enough to snap a few shots that turned out rather well.

The birds lay their eggs on the ground, sand or bare earth, and some of the nests were practically in the road.  The creatures showed little concern for human company, perhaps skittering off a few feet but immediately returning to their posts after we passed.

Shapshots by vanilla,
Canon Sureshot A520
Rockport, April 2008


Grace said...

Not the brightest bulbs on the marquee, these birds. Yes they survive and flourish - so far.

vanilla said...

Grace, I guess it works for them. The black skimmer is not listed either as endangered or threatened, but it is on the list of Species of Special Concern and is thus protected. According to the Inman article the killdeer, normally a shore bird, is thriving in urban and suburban environments which I would ascribe to strict leash laws in many communities.

Secondary Roads said...

I'm familiar with the killdeer. They nest beside our driveway our in our yard. I've never seen a black skimmer. When I checked Peterson's Guide to Eastern Birds, I discovered why. They are only found along salt-water coasts.

vanilla said...

Chuck, I had never seen the black skimmer prior to our times in Texas. Saw lots of other species there that I never sighted in the Midwest, too.

Marsha Young said...

Don't think we have the black skimmers here in Nor. Calif. At least not that I have observed. Neat pictures though. Happy Easter to you, Vanilla.
~ Marsha

Lin said...

There was a kildeer on the lawn of the middle school near us. I spent half my car-pool years yelling at kids to leave the birds alone. Ugh.

Some birds are so dumb, that it is just amazing that they can procreate. Mourning doves are the worst--they are horrible "nest" makers. I think even I, a non-bird, could do better.

vanilla said...

Marsh, according to my bird manual, the Salton Sea is the only likely place one might see the skimmer in California.

Lin, I suppose it is possible that if those dumb birds were brighter they might overrun the earth. The mourning dove nest is certainly a sorry example of architecture and construction.

Ilene said...

Interesting. My bird nest story involved much more clever architects. I had dreaded barn swallows nest on my porch a few years ago. They are, indeed, messy birds, but since their nests could not be legally disturbed once eggs were laid, I let them stay. I watched them meticulously build their mud nest and watched as two different broods of baby birds filled the nest that summer. I was fascinated by watching the first group eat, grow, and learn to fly. The second group did not fare so well, and began to die and land on my front porch. I watched as the mother bird circled me and chattered as I scooped them up and took them away, one a day, until there were no more.
The next year the parent birds returned to raise yet another family under the eves of my porch, but I had hosed away their nest. They began the arduous task of building again, in the same spot. This time my house was on the market, and I really did not want birds nesting over my front porch. It happened that I was on spring break, so each time I saw them arrive with their balls of mud, I went out and yelled at them to go away. Finally, on the second or third day of this, I went out on the porch, and yelled with added emphasis, "My house is on the market and I can not have you living on my front porch. You are going to have to build your nest somewhere else!"
After that, I saw no more swallows on my porch. I'm sure they were traumatized to find out that I was leaving.

vanilla said...

Ilene, we hosted barn swallows above the front door at the lake place. One summer. Enough is enough.

Sharkbytes said...

That skimmer is beautiful! And I love the little tuxedo wearing baby killdeer

vanilla said...

Sharkbytes, I agree; the skimmer is a beautiful bird, graceful in the air.