How DO they survive?

Can you spot the eggs in the roadside gravel?

Can you spot the eggs in the roadside gravel?

Finally I've spotted them: three little eggs laid in a gravel nest by the side of a road south of Albany.

On my bike rides through the countryside this spring, every once in a while I've noticed a killdeer flying away from the shoulder as I approached. I assumed these maneuvers were intended to lead this predator away from their nests. A few times I've tried to find the nests, but either they were not yet established or so well camouflaged that I couldn't spot them.

On Saturday, the same thing happened, up to a point. A killdeer blasts off from the shoulder of the road and heads cross-country, fluttering like mad. This time I've had time to mark the spot in relation to a nearby signpost. I make a couple of U-turns, get off the bike and walk. And there they are, the eggs in the nest this handsome little bird didn't want me to see. (If she -- I assume -- had stayed put instead of taking flight, I wouldn't have noticed.)

I'm always amazed that killdeer still exist in these parts. Their nests are so open and their eggs so vulnerable it's a wonder any of them survive. My bird book tells me killdeer eggs take up to 28 days to hatch, and the hatchlings then need 25 days before they can fly. Wish them luck, for that's a long time to evade predators, whose numbers do not, by the way, include a guy passing by on a bike. (hh)

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