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Killdeer and other plovers can be seen here

Our Times News region is not blessed with sandy beaches, ocean bays, mud flats, nor proximity to the ocean.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t find any species of plovers here.

The most commonly found species is the killdeer.

But another that makes an occasional appearance here is the semi-palmated plover. They are actually rather similar in appearance, and to a novice birder, can be misidentified.

Plovers are very closely related to sandpipers. They too are common along our coasts. If you were ever fortunate enough to relax on a beach in “Jersey,” Delaware, or Maryland, especially in May, late summer or fall, you’ve probably seen many.

Sandpipers generally have shorter legs and narrower bills. So much of our East Coast has become very developed with public beaches, boardwalks, tall condo buildings, and everything that makes it inhospitable to their breeding.

Plover species include the black-bellied plover, American golden plover, killdeer, semi-palmated plover, piping plover, and the unusual American oyster catcher.

Piping plovers are listed as an endangered species and a few pair have successfully raised young at Presque Isle State Park (Lake Erie) since 2017.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see all of them. I bet you’ve encountered killdeers somewhere in your travels locally.

Killdeer arrive in our area in early spring and prefer open ground, baseball diamond infields, and sparsely vegetated field areas.

Often an old construction site where only a few plants are growing, seems to be just to their liking. I usually see them running a few yards, stop, and sprint another yard or two.

When they take flight, you will hear their telltale “killdeeeer, kildeeeer” call. They nest most often on completely barren ground or even in a crushed stone driveway.

A local farmer friend in Franklin Township photographed killdeer eggs, tightly tucked close together in a nest (actually no nest) on the edge of his gravel driveway.

About five weeks ago I went to check on some waterfowl in a farm pond and as I drove up the long dirt driveway, I apparently got close to a killdeer nest.

I knew that because killdeer are one of a few birds that use distraction to lure away a potential predator. I stopped my truck and took no chances that I could drive over her eggs or the young.

Killdeer are precocial birds, the young are feathered and active within hours of their hatching. (Ducks and geese are other types of precocial birds.)

The mottled colored chicks will stop and crouch close to the ground as mom or dad sounds the alarm. They are unable to fly and their rather odd-looking oversized legs don’t help them run to avoid danger.

If you hear the killdeer distress call and see them acting unusual, you are probably near the nest or young. Watch every step you take when you back away from them to avoid crushing their eggs.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: Arrange these birds regarding their wingspan, from the largest to the smallest: turkey vulture, crow, bald eagle, black vulture, northern raven, red-tailed hawk.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: The blackpoll warbler may be the grand champion of long-distance migration for warblers. They winter in Argentina and fly to our northern forests or Canada to breed. Hence that later arrival through the Times News region.

Barry Reed’s column appears Saturdays in the Times News. Email him at breed71@gmail.com.

The killdeer is one of the “land lubber” plovers. Unlike most other plovers closely tied to aquatic habitats, it is quite at home in rather barren areas around our region. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
The killdeer nest, and using the term nest is stretching it, is a shallow depression in loose stones or gravel with very camouflaged eggs.
You'll know if you are close to a killdeer's nest or young. The adults will give an agitated call, expose their bright rump feathers, and play the broken wing routine to lure you, or other predators a safe distance away from their young. They have an amazing recovery when after a few minutes of this ruse and drawing predators a hundred feet away, they fly off.
The semi-palmated plover is the other plover that can make an appearance in our region. One was seen at Beltzville lake again this spring. It has a few subtle differences in feather patterns and is about 3 inches smaller than the 9- or 10-inch killdeer. Probably one of the largest and most unusual plovers is the American Oystercatcher. It is a coastal bird and with its huge, bright, orange-red bill it may be the easiest to identify and learn.