Birds couldn’t care less about your human entertainment, and a killdeer certainly isn’t going to change its breeding plans to accommodate Ottawa’s annual Bluesfest music festival.
Babies hiding under an adult killdeer. Photo: Ryan Hodnett (Wikimedia Commons)
This year, preparations for the festival are on hold to protect one very special attendee: a mother bird and her nest. Workers discovered the bird, a killdeer, guarding her four eggs while they were setting up one of the festival’s main stages. The breed is protected by the Canadian government and cannot be moved without federal permission.
Killdeers are quirky migratory shorebirds, and you may see them nesting in odd places – such as in the middle of a parking lot, for example. But even if the birds don’t choose the safest spots to brood, they’re thankfully defended by some very old conservation laws.
Back in the early 1900s, humans were really wrecking bird species, hunting many to near extinction for fun or for their beautiful feathers. In response, the United States and Canada signed a 1916 treaty to protect migrating birds.
In the US, the resulting law is called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and Canada has the Migratory Birds Convention Act 1994 (enacted in 1917 but updated in 1994). Since the killdeer is on the list of protected species, the organisers of Bluesfest must ask the Canadian government for permission to move the eggs.
And moving the eggs can be bad. According to the CBC, the killdeer might abandon its eggs if the nest is moved too far.
While it’s a very silly problem to have, it didn’t surprise at least one scientist we spoke to.
“They choose some strange places to nest,” Susan Elbin, Director of Conservation and Science at New York City Audubon, told Gizmodo. “We had one nesting in the middle of a construction site on Governor’s Island.” You just need to cordon off and protect the eggs, Elbin said.
The eggs have a three-to-four week incubation period, and then babies are up, running and flying fairly quickly after hatching. The festival is slated to begin July 5 and will have 300,000 attendees, reports CNN. The festival organisers have an idea as to where to move the birds, but just need the government to give the OK.
Fortunately, CBC Ottawa has tweeted that the nest will be moved to a nearby suitable habitat. The show shall go on.
BREAKING EXTREMELY #OTTAWA NEWS:
— CBC Ottawa (@CBCOttawa) June 26, 2018
Bird conservation is a good thing. If anything, the festival organisers can let the killdeer be this year’s Bluesfest mascot.