Help get this topic noticed by sharing it on Twitter, Facebook, or email.
I’m sad

What is the reaction of killdeer when their eggs are no longer viable?

I have a very dumb question about killdeer birds. Recently a pair of killdeer made a nest with 4 eggs in some wood chips at my kids' school. There long thin wood steaks were put around the eggs to prevent people from stepping on them. I do believe the time was near for them to hatch. I had to walk past the nest today and I wanted to see how the eggs were doing. One bird was guarding the eggs & the other parent sitting on the best. As I got closer the parent guarding the mate & eggs tried to distract me. Soon though as I got even closer the parent sitting on the eggs got off and tried to distract me with their "injury". To my absolute horror and disgust I saw the 4 eggs had stepped on. What has happened to humanity?! Anyway, my 2 questions are how long will it take the pair of killdeer to notice their eggs are dead? And is there any scientific evidence that shows that they will experience sadness at the fact that their babies are dead?
1 person has
this question
  • 1
    Hi Dawn,

    In my experience with birds (wild or tame) who lose their nests, it appears they go through hormonal cycles. The killdeer still have the "momentum" of their nesting cycle. So for how long it will take to notice, they *have* noticed, but their hormones are probably timed to the normal incubation period of the eggs. The hormone cycle can start again at the point where they eggs would have hatched. The killdeer are probably feeling extress distress, but that is very temporary -- as soon as the hormonal cycle starts again, they no longer seem to have emotions about the loss. If there is enough time left in the season, they will probably build another nest (somewhere else) and at that point, they are completely focused on the new babies. Remember, in nature, eggs or baby birds are often eaten by predators, so to survive, birds have to turn their complete attention on their current brood, not spend their energy mourning previous ones. And, even with a successful nest, once the babies are independent, they usually never see their parents again. So birds are used to letting go of their young completely without regret. The real loss is to the children at the school, who had the chance to observe and learn something precious. Those killdeer will never nest there again.
  • (some HTML allowed)
    How does this make you feel?
    Add Image

    e.g. kidding, amused, unsure, silly indifferent, undecided, unconcerned happy, confident, thankful, excited sad, anxious, confused, frustrated