The Killdeer are all over Disposal Road these days — on the ground and in the air and shouting up a storm.
We did a column about Killdeer for The South Bergenite earlier this month.
Here it is:
Officially, spring arrives on March 20 at 1:32 p.m., but signs of the changing season are in the air in the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission’s DeKorte Park and elsewhere in the region.
Already, Red-Winged blackbirds can be seen and heard as they call from their phragmites perches, and a distinctive shorebird called the Killdeer has been making an early appearance at one of its favorite hangouts, near the AMVETS Carillon on Disposal Road.
No matter that there was still snow on the ground when the Killdeer arrived. The odd shorebird was announcing spring’s imminent arrival – and serving as a reminder that next time you’re in DeKorte or any local park, keep your eyes peeled.
If you see a lanky-legged shorebird with dark “necklaces” around its throat, chances are you’re looking at a Killdeer.
And chances are you’ll be able to see the bird now though September. A few may over-winter in our region, but these guys typically migrate to the southern United States or Central America.
You may not realize it at first glance, but Killdeer are amazing birds – for several reasons.
“These quirky birds will build a nest almost anywhere,” says NJMC Naturalist Mike Newhouse. “They’ll build their nests in parking lots, construction sites, gravel roads, beaches, roof tops, and golf courses.”
In fact, one Killdeer laid her eggs in the middle of a parking lot at DeKorte last spring, and another had her nest in the middle of a field at Riverside County Park.
If you come across a Killdeer’s wonderfully camouflaged eggs, which are about twice the size of a robin’s egg, just leave them alone. The Killdeer will be back to incubate them after she lays the last egg.
Then the really bizarre behavior begins. “If you see a bird running around like it has a broken wing, you’re probably looking at Killdeer,” Newhouse says. “The Killdeer will act injured in an attempt to lure a potential predator away from the nest or the fledglings.”
The other way to identify a Killdeer is equally simple, according to Newhouse: “These birds are very conspicuous, since they tend to run a few steps, stop and bob their heads while calling 'kill-deeeer' – hence their name.”
If you’d like to look for Killdeer and other nifty spring arrivals, join the Meadowlands Commission and the Bergen County Audubon Society on one of our free monthly walks.