The man was heartened by the boy’s compassion and tenacity and determined to find help for the babies, and to transport them to care.
The day-old chicks were cold and in shock when they arrived, and after they were warm, we provided fluids and started hand-feeding them.
Some of you are ‘birders,’ and know that killdeer are not like songbirds, but are precocial and walk and feed themselves within 24 hours of hatching, but when a precocial bird is sick, injured, or has been compromised, it needs special care.
We hand-fed the two chicks every 15 minutes during day and into dark for the next three days. One of the babies was weaker, and we found the sad sight of a lonely baby cuddled up to his dead sibling the morning of the 14th.
We reached out to other Rehabilitators to find a friend for the lonely baby and—just as we were ready to transfer our little survivor into care, we got a call from a state wildlife biologist involved in an endangered species recovery program involved in safeguarding the first nest of Piping Plover at a Chicago, Illinois USA beach in 50 years!
As it happens, the Piping Plover had nested in an area also occupied by Killdeer, another species of protected plover, but with a much healthier population.
Killdeer have been known to be aggressive toward other birds once their eggs hatch, and the endangered plover chicks were at risk from the adult killdeer.
On July 21, in an action that protected both species' young, four killdeer eggs were carefully delivered to us and put in our incubator. Three hatched beginning July 23, each a day apart.
As precocial babies need time to absorb the remaining yolk sac and dry and preen before leaving the nest site, we waited 24 hours after hatching before introducing the first baby to our hand-raised chick.
He did the rest! He showed that baby and each baby that followed it where to find worms and water and where to hide to sleep and when to drop and act all innocent when humans checked the incubator.
On July 27, an adult male killdeer relocated from the area arrived and the conversation was lively as he introduced himself to the babies who excitedly answered back!
July 31, the youngest chick was 7 days old and all four of the happy family moved to a playpen near the adult.
August 5, another young killdeer was transferred to us from a fellow rehabilitator so that it could be released with a family.
Both the killdeer and piping plover migrate--so you may see one of the birds in this story in your area one day!
We want to thank all of you who have donated this past year--and we're especially grateful to our monthly recurring donors who made care possible for these babies!