Well, as it turned out we made a (rare!) correct assumption when we figured our Killdeer would stop laying after the fourth egg. They are incubating full time now. Both the male and female of Killdeer couples sit on their eggs, taking turns. This is different from, say, bluebirds where the female does all of the incubating.
You’re probably familiar with many types of backyard birds who maintain nests for their young, where the babies stay in the nest after they are born for a certain period with the parents feeding them until they “fledge” (leave the nest). Killdeer are very different. When their eggs hatch, the babies are quite functional. They leave the nest as soon as they are dry, and they feed themselves immediately. They do not return to the nest except to wait for the remaining eggs to hatch. The parents never feed them, though they do lead their babies to food and stay with them for about a month.
Because Killdeer are much further advanced than some other birds when they hatch, their incubation period is longer since the babies need longer to develop. Again using bluebirds as an example, their incubation period is 12-14 days. By contrast the Killdeer will incubate their eggs for 24-28 days. So, we’ve got a long wait. We are anticipating a hatch date of somewhere between May 17 and 21.
Until then, we’ll have to ward off the boredom with some pictures! Here’s one from back in 2008. This mama (or papa!) was quite tolerant of us but made sure s/he stayed in between us and the nest! Can you spot the eggs? Hint: There are four!
We’ll be back in a few days with another update!