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Killdeer will fake injury to protect nest

I was in an industrial park recently when my attention was drawn to a bird fluttering on the ground and dragging a wing as if it were broken.

I have seen this behavior many times; it was a killdeer trying to lure me away from its nest or young. I did not search for the offspring for fear of trampling them, because their eggs are perfectly camouflaged and the young will sometimes sit still instead of running away.

Killdeer are members of the shorebird family that live and breed extensively inland. They are common in the southern piedmont and are conspicuous with their fairly large size, loud, shrill calls, and prominent black bands across the upper breast.

Killdeer often hide their eggs in plain sight near areas where humans travel. There is no nest, just a slight depression in the dirt with two to four speckled eggs.

The adults lure intruders away with the broken-wing act most of the time, but when that fails the birds can become fearless. I have seen a female killdeer standing over her eggs, literally growling at a group of curious people that had discovered her clutch. If one of these birds tries to fake you out, back off slowly and watch patiently for the adult to return to the eggs.

You may be amazed by how close it is to you.

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