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Killdeer nest: Hatching their invisible eggs right before your eyes!

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, May 14th, 2009 at 12:28 pm in Killdeer nest.

Just hatched killdeer chicks. Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA.

In a gravel area at Heather Farm Park in Walnut Creek, four Killdeer chicks hatched and are probably off hiding in the bushes by now.

Jim Silva discovered the nest in a large gravel area and put a couple of orange highway cones around it to prevent someone from driving over the invisible nest. The 4th chick hatched yesterday afternoon and the egg shells disappeared very fast!

Mama killdeer pretending to be hurt to lure you away from her nest. Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA.

You’ll notice the look in the mom’s eye as she realizes I’m not buying the “broken wing display” while I’m taking these pictures.

You might want to share this with your readers on your blog.
Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA

Killdeer eggs, hidden in the pebbles. yes, this is the “nest.” Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA.

Killdeer are amazing little birds. They lay their eggs right out in the open, on the ground or on the top of buildings with flat gravel roofs. They pick areas with small stones that look like their eggs. A killdeer nest is very primitive, basically just the eggs laid on the stones so they all look the same.

Mama killdeer sitting on her eggs and incubating them. Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA.

If you see a killdeer sitting on the ground this time of the year, there’s a good chance she’s incubating her eggs. The babies can run around with mom within minutes after they hatch. They have to be able to do that. A helpless chick just sitting on the ground wouldn’t survive for long.

If someone, animal or human, comes too close, mama killdeer plays like she has a broken wing and hobbles and flops along (one of the best acts in the animal world) looking like she’s hurt so she can lure you out of the area.

Mama killdeer getting ready to sit on her eggs. Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA.

Thanks for letting me share these unique photos with my readers so they can see how this all works in real life.

These are truly amazing photos, Brian. /Gary

Killdeer chicks hatching. One egg to go! Photo by Brian Murphy, Walnut Creek, CA.

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50 Responses to “Killdeer nest: Hatching their invisible eggs right before your eyes!”

  1. Rachael Says:

    I just picked up two abandoned killdeer bird eggs and I was wondering how to take care of them so they will hatch. They are about four weeks along and I put them on a blanket with a reptile light on them….is there anything else I can do??

  2. Gary Bogue Says:

    Those killdeer may not have been deserted. Mama killdeer sometimes will leave the eggs to go eat. The gravel/rocks where they are laid help to keep them warm while she is gone. If it’s only been a day, put the eggs back exactly where you found them. Otherwise, Killdeer incubate their eggs 24-28 days. If the eggs were deserted, it’s probably because the eggs were infertile. If you still want to give it a shot, incubation temp should be about 95-100 degrees F. You can Google Killdeer to find out how to raise the babies if you get lucky. /Gary

  3. Carol Says:

    Your site is great and very informative. We have a Killdeer that has layed for eggs in the rocks in our flower bed. It’s been almost a week and a half. Well she has layed 4 eggs, however a cat or something eat one of the eggs last night. Now the killdeer is across the street and she hasn’t sat on the nest today at all. I am worried that she has abandoned the nest? Is this true? Or will she come back to the nest?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Gary Bogue Says:

    If she hasn’t sat on the nest for all day she may have deserted it, but since you probably aren’t watching her and the nest 24/7, you can’t be sure. All you can do is sit back and watch and wait and see. It takes about 24-28 days for killdeer eggs to hatch. Normally when a bird is off the eggs that long, they get cold and the babies die, but killdeer eggs often can stay warm for long periods because they are sitting in rock and gravel areas where the rock stays warm from the sun. Cross your fingers. /Gary

  5. Christine Says:

    I live on a golf course in Las Vegas, and for the past 5-6 years I’ve had killdeer lay & hatch eggs in my yard. They choose one of the two same spots.

    Can you please tell me if they are the same “parents” every year AND when do they usually lay the eggs?? They are already “in place” and it seems like it’s a little early this year, and as of yesterday, no eggs YET.

    I watch out for them and don’t allow my gardener NEAR them.

    Last year the babies were trapped for a few minutes by my neighbor’s “baby pool fence”. The parents were “screaming,” and I heard them and rescued the babies (thank God the neighbors were home and could open up the retractable fence).

  6. Jaden Says:

    This is a very informative site about killdeer. however, I found some abandoned killdeer eggs-and I know that they are abandoned because a looked at them for 3 days, and their has been no mom- and I decided to bring them in. I recently candled them and the embryos are fine and alive but I don’t know how to take care of the eggs. I have them in a plastic storage bin with a heat-pad in it and with a couple of towels on the ground, but its been like 3-4 days or so and I really am worried that I am not doing it right. could you tell me what to do to keep them warm and make them hatch?

    plz respond soon

  7. Tim Says:

    Great site! i actually have a couple questions though. i have some abandoned killdeer eggs that i know where abandoned for sure, and i brought them in and fallowed your steps on creating a incubator for them (mentioned in the reply to Rachael). however, i am not so positive to know if they are alive in the egg, or even if they are still forming. i tried to research it, but candling did not work, and i am desperite to know if they are alive. you are my last resort, so do you have any suggestions? please reply soon.

    Tim G——L

  8. Darlene Luckins Says:

    Hi! Great information you have there. I just wanted to respond to some of the people who have taken in abandoned eggs. If you’ve never handled precocial insect eating birds before, I would suggest calling and turning over any eggs or chicks you find to a wildlife rehab facility. These are people who are usually trained and experienced in raising abandoned birds. Also, in many cases, it is against the law to remove chicks and eggs of any migratory birds or keep them any longer than the time needed to transport them to a licensed care facility.

  9. Tim Says:

    Dear Gary,
    you know that egg i had, well, it died because i was waiting for YOUR response. there are alot of people on this site who have emergancies and need help. your just lazy and obviosly need to type some people back here!!! to make it worse, the egg DID hatch but it died INSTANTLY and i dont know why. I hade plenty of the correct food and water-and i know for surwe because i called a wildlife center- and it died. ya know, everything comes with responsibility-and if you are going to own this site, RIGHT PEOPLE BACK!!! ITS FRICKEN SIMPLE!!! AND TO “DARLINE LUCKENS”, SOME OF US DONT LIVE NEAR ANIMAL HOSPITALS AND WILDLIFE CENTERS!!!

  10. Tim Says:


  11. Darlene Says:

    Did you even THINK to look at the date of this article. It was written a year before you asked for advice. I don’t even know if this person is writing for this paper anymore. I was reading the comments and this is the advice anyone involved with wildlife rescue would have given. I wasn’t specifically giving this advice to you, but to anyone who is in your dilemma. You are not the only one who has come across this problem and any person who has had any experience with wildlife rescue would tell you the same.

    I’m pissed, too. You should have left the eggs alone and let them stay unhatched. Now a baby killdeer is dead.

  12. Darlene Says:

    Heck, I wouldn’t have even seen your response if it wasn’t for the fact that I was researching something else. I don’t read this paper.

  13. Darlene Says:

    The chick wouldn’t have survived anyway because you sound like you didn’t know what you were doing.

    Sorry, couldn’t edit my previous posts into one long posts.

  14. Darlene Says:

    OK. Let me just say this: If you are in such a remote area that you feel that you can’t make it to a wildlife rehabilitation facility, contact your local fish and game, state or national park, or anyone else dealing with wildlife issues in your area. There are people in rural and remote areas licensed to handle wildlife. The people at the wildlife center should have told you where to turn the eggs in to such a person. I’m surprised they didn’t tell you to put them back.

    Sometimes, if the mother has not laid on the eggs for a while and they get cold, they don’t develop right.

    I don’t know why you had to attack me about this. It wasn’t my fault.

  15. Truman Says:

    theres 3 bird eggs at a high school near bye and we wanted to take care of one that hatched is that possible and also another hatched and we cant find it ANYWHERE!could it have died?

  16. Truman Says:

    and btw calm down tim or whatever your name is you think that the guy will write you back when you say that crap!get a life

  17. Gary Bogue Says:

    Truman: The killdeer that hatched that you can’t find, probably ran off with mama. Baby killdeer are ready to roll immediately after they hatch and should be left alone for mama killdeer to care for. If you try to catch the baby, you frighten mama away.

    Darlene: Thanks for passing along your good advice.

    Tim: Sorry you’re upset. You’ll note this segment of my blog was written a year ago.I’ve written hundreds of entries since then and rely on the blog software to alert me when someone has a comment. We’ve been having some problems with this blog software and I only just now received a notice that there was activity on this particular entry. Sorry I wasn’t able to respond to you promptly. Hopefully, that has been corrected. /Gary

  18. Lynn Says:

    We’ve watched 4 killdeer eggs in our front yard around 21 days and the parents have sat on them almost nonstop thru cold, hot, windy and rainy days. The 4th egg was laid and we’ve counted 21 days. The first was laid about a week before that. All four eggs are gone with no shell remnants left. Could they have hatched or been eaten? We named them Mary & Joseph and I’m going thru “empty nest syndrome”.

  19. jing Says:

    Hi I have a mother killdeer bird laid eggs in my front yard. She has been hatching it for several days. I am worried because next week we are supposed to get a lot of rain. is the rain gonna damage the hatching process?

  20. Darlene Says:

    Thanks Gary.

  21. JANICE Says:


  22. TERRI Says:

    we have a kildeer nest in our garden they seem to come back everyear anyway she layed 4 eggs after that we had a cold snap its been over a month now as it seems we had 4 then 3 yesterday and now just one i have not seen any babies I did see a piece of shell on the edge of the garden if a cat eat would get at the egss would it not eat them all ???????????????????????

  23. Margret Says:

    Dear Gary,
    Ive been watching a killdeer nest near a construction site for a little bit now, and 4 days ago the construction site layed new gravel litterally an inch next to the killdeers nest, the mother still hasent mooved the nest and im terribly scared; should i move the eggs, should i take them home, should i warn the construction crew? The problem is that the construction crew isent so fond of birds like i am and dont really care, if i put flags agournd them i think they might just take them out!!!! what shoul i do!Please help….


  24. Brittney Says:

    Hello, I just found this egg in the woodchips in my Mom’s front lawn… And the Mom abanded it because these black crows were hanging around it… It has been around a week and she hasn’t come back yet… So I decided to take it to see if I could hatch it.. I have it in a glad container with grass, pebbles, and woodchips by it.. Under a lamp.. Is that good enough or should I do more?? The question I need to have an answer to is.. How can you tell if an egg is still alive??? I took a flashlight in the dark and the only thing I see is a pink plump sitting-floating around.. It moved once but I am not sure what to do now to make sure it is alive or not.. SO PLEASE help.. Thx /Brittney

  25. Jaden Says:

    Dear Gary
    The eggs that i had hatched, and i was able to send them to a wildlife center nearby. so, that was a sucsess. however, there is a killdeer in our yard though, and i cant see any eggs or any sign of defence from the bird. each day when we come home(school or something related), i notice the poor female out in the road pacing back and forth. im not sure if there is a nest or if the female is pregnant, but its had several close calls with the passing cars. do you have any advice?
    Thanks for your help, Jaden LeDuc

    p.s., Tim, why do you have to be a jerk? like gary said, there are TONS of articles that poor gary is trying to write or respond to, so you dont need to get upset. you shouldn’t get “pissed” about gary when he is trying to work hard and trying the best he can. To Darlene Luckins, I want to apologize for tims behavior. I may not know him, but i have never seen that much disrespect to another person.

    thanks gary, /Jaden

  26. Tim Says:


  27. Jaden Says:

    >.> dude…seriously? dont be immature.

  28. Jaden LeDuc Says:

    hey gary sorry for asking questions, but this one actually dosn’t refer to killdeer. i couldn’t find any place else to look, then i remembered thet you have a website! but anyway, may cat has been having some trouble latley. when we found her, about 4 years ago, she was a outdoor cat who was starved to death. by human instinct, i took her in because of the trajity it was in. eventually, she got used to the enviornment, and was actually very friendly. however, nowadays she is usually looking out the window, or trying to dart out the door. she isn’t a outdoor cat, but i have a feeling that she misses the out doors. but that was about five years ago. so i dont even know if there is any ossibility that she remembers the outdoors. as of now, i cant aford any fancy gadgets to keep her inside, but i was wondering if you maybe had any ideas or suggestions for me. to make it worse, the neihborhood i live in has lots of cyotes and racoons and other small preditors of cats, not adding the passing cars every day.
    so, i know this is kind of a long message, but i really have no idea what to do. thanks for all your help,

  29. Jen Says:

    Hey– We have a momma (and daddy?) killdeer in our landscaping– been there with her 4 eggs for 22 days. Today, no momma… no daddy. What gives? Why might they abandon their eggs so close to hatching?

  30. Dan Says:

    It is apparent that most of you consider 3rd grade your Senior year in High School.
    Learn how to SPELL before you write in a BLOG!

  31. Darlene Says:

    Thank Jaden. Congrats on your chicks hatching.

    We had several sets hatch and grow up to be adults at our lake. One set hatched from eggs laid only feet from a walking path. It was a miracle, plus coyotes and foxes there, too. Another set was moved 2 miles from the hatching area across a parking lot full of crows and grackes to a fenced area. They all survived and are doing well even today. I really enjoyed watching them grow up and now they’re looking for mates of their own.

    Jen, I know it’s too late, but maybe they knew the eggs were not viable or maybe something scared them away like a cat or something.

  32. Jaden LeDuc Says:

    Excuse me “Dan”? people can use “Text messaging speek” if they want to. Some comon ones are:

    Plz Please
    H8 hate
    lol laugh out loud
    rofl roll on floor laughing

    No offense, but it seems like you have been vaccant for the past 10 years. And further more, since when has a kid ever though they were graduating SCHOOL in third grade? And further more, I think you shouldn’t parole around on blogs making sure that catch adults who aren’t spelling things correctly. And we all know that it’s you, Tim. you don’t have to come back to this website to act like a toddler.

  33. Jaden LeDuc Says:

    Thank you Darlene, for being so helpful on this website.

  34. drew Says:

    i have three killdeer eggs i put them on a soft tee shirt with a heating pad under it and i put it on low i have had them for about twelve hours and i turn off the heating pad every little while so they dont get to hot what should i do give them back to the mom or should i stay with what im doing?

  35. Hailey Says:

    We found 4 eggs on the ground on 3/15/11 we have been checking the nest everyday and the mother has been sitting on the nest until today 3/22/11 now only 2 are left the mother is no where in sight could we nurse the 2 abandoned eggs or wait a little while to see if the mother returns? thanks for your help.

  36. steve Says:

    Our Killdeer has four hatchlings as of yesterday. We looked for the egg shells this morning and could not find them? Do they eat them? Also the whole family is wandering all over the place. Will they go back to the next for the night or will they find a new place to nest? Are they gone or will we see them again?

  37. Gary Bogue Says:

    Steve: Once killdeer hatch, they’re ready to take off with mom and pop and start foraging for things to eat. Their camouflage is excellent so it’s very hard to see them. They don’t stick around the nest, so you probably won’t spot them again, unless you’re lucky. The parent birds sometimes eat the egg shells. other birds will also do this. /Gary

  38. Jenni Says:

    We have had 4 killdeer eggs for probably about 2 weeks for sure. Could have been longer. This morning I looked out and saw Mom franticaly running around and screaming and chasing everything away. Saw a crow a few times, but not close to the nest. I went over and looked and nothing! No shells even. Founda bit of freash blood on some grass and a rock not far from the nest. Do you think the crow took them all? If so, will Mom lay more eggs soon, and if so, will she in the same area? I’m so sad. Mom & Dad sat there through some terrible MI weather. I was looking so forward to seeing them. Not a very happy mother’s day for Momma bird :-(

  39. Melissa Says:


    My husband works on a farm.. today he was harrowing/plowing a field and a bird was frantic in front of him. He got out of the tractor and tried to shoo it away, the bird was persistent. He realized it was a bird protecting a nest and found the little pebble nest it made with one egg in it, in the field. The problem was, the field HAD to be done( there was no way he could just leave it be and go around it). If he didn’t do it, someone else was going to… So he decided to bring the little egg home instead of destroying it. We have it under a heat lamp at 95 degrees. I’m going to see if anyone(wild life rehab) will bother taking the egg. I tried candling the egg, but it is too thick/dark spots.. I cannot see anything inside. Any help advice in the meantime?? Do I need to turn it ever so often? Does it need humidity? Is 95 an ok temp?

  40. Melissa Says:

    I wanted to add.. we positively identified the bird(s) as a killdeer.

  41. audry Says:

    My grandfather was out fishing today and he looked down into the river and saw two killdeer eggs in the water.He brought them home and now i’m trying to make sure they hatch so we can bring them back to the river when they are ready.I don’t know what i should do or anything about them……please help!!!

    We live in fresno and it gets hot here so should i just keep them outside or should i put them under a heat lamp or something?

  42. Loralie Says:

    At my work a mama killdeer has laid four eggs. The killdeer are beautiful birds and I find it amazing how they can lay their eggs out in the open. This mama chose to lay her eggs under a cedar tree. When i cam back to work from the weekend and went to check on her all the eggs were gone She had four. I think the water from the rain had gotten high and it washed the eggs away. I found one and put it back in the nest. I left and came back and she was sitting on it. Does the mama killdeer know if the eggs are alive or not.

  43. Margaret Says:

    I live in SE British Columbia, Canada. I want to harrow my field, but am worried about nesting killdeer. Would I risk the chance of driving over unborn chicks? I won’t harrow if I know that they are nesting. How can I tell? Can anyone help me?

  44. Annoth Says:

    To Margaret- Nesting killdeer will get increasingly more frantic if you keep approching the nest. The closer you are, the louder and more flamboyant they get. But the best sign is, if the nest has eggs, the killdeer will give the broken wing act. Just watch them as you go :)

  45. Carol Says:

    We had a nest of killdeer in our front yard. Yesterday the eggs hatched. My daughter kept going over and checking on the mama and four chicks. When she went over in the late afternoon to check, there was a huge bull snake there and both mama and dad were freaking out. The babies were all dead or eaten. I think this same pair nested near here last year and had the same thing happen. If they nest next year, is there any way to protect the babies for a day or two from the snake. They were not mobile yesterday; just laying in the nest with mama on or near them.

  46. Jane Says:

    Have killdeer eggs that are now 6 weeks old and bird has been sitting on the nest. Usually takes 24-28 days to hatch, anyone know what is wrong with these eggs?

  47. Rima Says:

    OH NO!! I was mowing my way overgrown grass in the back yard and mowed over a large nest, as I saw after the fact.. There are 14 eggs..only 3 were destroyed by the mower. I made a make-shift loose nest out of remaining tall grass to somewhat surround and partially cover the nest.. I didn’t do anything with the destroyed eggs.. I don’t know what to do!?? Will the mother come back if the surrounding is different? HELP! Thank you! (pretty sure they’re Killdeer eggs by googleing pics and I did see a Killdeer on the roof..

  48. Rima Says:

    Wait…there is also a Quail in my yard and they look like they could be quail eggs too.. ???

  49. Rima Says:

    Mom and dad quail are looking around for the nest…I had put tall grasses almost rainbowed over it so it wouldn’t be completely exposed.. should I move even more of the grasses away from it? I’m just afraid it would be too exposed and open to predators…They’re close to it but don’t seem to be getting it yet… ???

  50. Courtney Says:

    I have 3 dogs and all of my dogs were barking so i went over and there were a nest of 4 killdear eggs and the mother frantic! she did the brocken wing act and then flew away i tryed to get my dogs away so she would come back. I left the eggs in the nest for 24 hours and have been checking the eggs every hour or so but she didnt come back for two days and I decided to take the eggs in I have them on a towel with a heating pad set to medium is there anything I can do!

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