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Nature Magazine, August-September 1944

Killdeer get into the news frequently, both because they are interesting birds and because of the precarious sites they sometimes select for their nests. These may be the gravel of a railroad roadbed, or other similar spots that seem to create great odds against the successful raising of a family.

Nature photographer W. Bryant Tyrrell worked with one mother killdeer that laid two sets of eggs. Her first nest was on the bare ground near some bushes at a government experimental station, the second was placed right in the middle of a lightly used gravel road that ran about a hundred yards from the first site.

The second nest contained two eggs, to which the bird was very attentive. She would allow the photographer to come within a few feet before leaving the nest. On one occasion she remained, seeming fascinated by the camera lens and unmindful of the fly that walked up her back to the top of her head and was recorded in the photograph. When the mother bird did leave the nest it was always with the old device of a broken wing, which was supposed to lure the intruder away from the eggs. That failing, she would try to chase the photographer away with as menacing an attitude as possible.

Mr. Tyrrell placed the eggs in the palm of his hand to see whether the bird would sit on them. She would come to the hand and peck at it but not quite touch it. He is convinced, however, that if he had had the patience and the July sun had not been so hot, the killdeer would finally have accepted his hand as a nesting site and gone on with raising a family.