Shorebirds can be seen around
Shorebirds are a large and diverse group. Although Indiana
is not known as a hotbed of shorebird activity, it is
possible to see more than a dozen different kinds of shorebirds
during the course of a year within the state.
It may take a little study and a bit of traveling, including
a trip to the shoreline of Lake Michigan, to see all of
With a little luck, this goal could be reached at Eagle
Creek Park if conditions are right. This year, for the
first time in a number of years, it looks as if we will
have some decent mud flats at the north end of Eagle Creek
This spring, as well as the period from August to October,
are the best months to see the greatest number and widest
variety of shorebirds in Eagle Creek Park. The presence
or absence of shorebirds makes the difference between
a good birding park and a less than interesting birding
This is why those places that have a reservoir or are
located along one of the Great Lakes or ocean shores have
the best chance to be an outstanding birding area.
The one member of the shorebird family with which most
people living in Indiana are acquainted is killdeer. This
colorful bird with an orange rump and a white breast showing
two black horizontal bands is almost always the first
true migrant to be found in Indiana.
Birds like robins and bluebirds are no longer true harbingers
of spring, for they are now wintering here in ever-increasing
The killdeer, with rare exceptions, does not spend the
hard part of winter here. They are absent for at least
two months. This year, as usual, the first ones were spotted
or heard during the last week in February. By mid-March,
they were already establishing their territories.
Killdeer are not as dependent on water as are most other
shorebirds. They are often found beside a country road,
especially one that is graveled. They have been known
to nest on top of a flat roof or even on an unpaved driveway
that is only lightly traveled.
Recently I was running errands in the northwest part
of Indianapolis. I decided to keep track of how many pairs
of killdeer I found in this busy part of the city. The
first ones I saw were in a new development called Inteck.
This group of modern buildings has some open, green areas
and a couple of ponds. I would guess that three pairs
of killdeer were already settled in, ready to nest.
My next stop brought me to 86th Street, to the Dollar
Store and the Wal-Mart parking lot. There were two pairs
of killdeer acting as if they were ready to nest. Just
where they will nest I can't guess.
On the way home, I stopped at a light at 71st Street
and I-465, and there was a pair of killdeer there. Six
pairs of killdeer in a 5-mile drive!
One reason they are so successful is their defense of
the nest when the female is incubating eggs. If you get
too near the nest, the male will hobble off, dragging
his "broken" wing in an attempt to lure you
away from the nest.
Send birding questions with a self-addressed, stamped
envelope to Bud Starling, P.O. Box 681132, Indianapolis,
IN 46268-7132. Starling leads bird walks at 8 a.m. Saturdays
at Cool Creek Park and 9 a.m. Sundays at Eagle Creek Park.