The San Dieguito Lagoon is home to 4 new residents! On Saturday, April 11th, 4 killdeer chicks hatched from a nest in the middle of the Coast to Crest Trail. The nest was discovered (and almost run over by the park maintenance vehicle) by Park Ranger Bryan Ward on March 19th, and to protect the nest from being accidentally stepped on or disturbed, he grabbed some cones to mark off the area and created a sign warning trail users of the ground nesting bird on the trail ahead.
A part of the plover family, Killdeer are shorebirds that usually lay 4 eggs in scrapes they make on bare ground. The eggs have black and brown spots that blend in with the sand or gravel of the scrape, and being in an area with little vegetation gives the killdeer parents good visibility to see any predators approaching from the ground or sky.
Killdeer eggs hatch in 22-28 days. It was on the afternoon of Day 24 that Park Ranger Bryan Ward discovered that 3 of the eggs had hatched. Killdeer chicks leave the nest as soon as their feathers dry.
Photos above by Bryan Ward.
By the next morning, the 4th egg must have hatched, as one chick was seen running around with a parent and there was no longer an unhatched egg in the nest, and the other 3 chicks were just starting to leave the nest with the other parent.
Photos below by Ginni Kitchen.
To learn more about killdeer, visit the online Audubon Guide to North American Birds.