Construction site goes to the birds

Posted Monday, May. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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When the little bird started swooping around David Rigby last week while working on Mansfield’s new Sam’s Club, he knew it wasn’t personal.

The licensed plumber for Waddell Excavation had seen a killdeer mom protecting her nest before. Rigby immediately started looking for the little bird’s eggs.

“He saw the bird dancing around and knew the eggs were there,” said his wife, Holly Rigby. “He’s been attacked at three different job sites. She was doing the broken wing thing, protecting (her eggs).”

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, killdeer are shore birds that can also live on golf courses, athletic fields and parking lots. The adults lay their eggs in slight indentions on the ground, then protect their nests by pretending to have a broken wing to lead predators away.

That’s what happened May 15, said Mike Van Slyke, lead superintendent for EMJ Corp., which is building Sam’s Club on the southeast corner of FM 157 and U.S. 287.

“She’s out here flapping around, trying to draw us away from her eggs,” Van Slyke said.

Rigby started looking and soon found four black-speckled tan eggs on the ground. He set up stakes around the nest and wrapped them in caution tape. Rigby is a softie when it comes to birds, his wife said.

“He does the big tough guy thing, but I have a bird feeder and he’ll sit and watch them for hours,” she said.

The little mother bird couldn’t have picked a busier place to lay her offspring. The nest not only lies between a massive construction site and busy six-lane FM 157, but the spot she picked is where the workers park the heavy construction vehicles. The site will soon become the edge of the parking lot for Sam’s Club, which is due to complete construction at the end of August, Van Slyke said.

The killdeer’s incubation period runs from 22 to 28 days, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The nesting site could be leveled within a week or so, Van Slyke said. When it comes time to decide whether to pave or save the eggs, “we’ll play it a day at a time,” Van Slyke said.

Holly Rigby wasn’t concerned.

“They’ve got a long way to go before they get a parking lot in there,” she said.

Amanda Rogers, 817-473-4451 Twitter: @AmandaRogersNM

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