Students at Willoughby Elementary school have been learning about nature first-hand.
Sometime during the school’s spring break in late March, a killdeer bird decided to lay four eggs in the wood chips on the school’s playground.
The school had a naming contest for the pair of killdeer that have been watching over the nest, and dubbed the female killdeer, Willow, and the male killdeer, Oak.
“From what I’ve heard, it takes about a month for the eggs to hatch,” principal Phillis Giovani explained.
If the predicted time frame is accurate, the eggs are set to hatch in the next week or two.
Giovani added the killdeer bird species is a protected bird in Canada, so after the School District found out about the nest, a fence was installed around the playground’s spider web climber to protect the area around the eggs.
“It shows people are caring about the environment and about who and what we share it with,” Giovani said.
And the students have taken an active role in watching over the birds.
“It’s pretty cool. One time I went over with a friend and there was a crow on top and I think it [killdeer] got scared and thought it was going to eat the eggs, so it started calling for the dad, and the dad started coming,” said Grade 4 student Kaia Le Vecque.
Grade 5 student Justin Smith added that the killdeer are a “protected species, and it’s pretty rare.”
Neither student had seen a killdeer prior to the ones on the school’s playground.
Although they’ve lost a piece of playground equipment for now, the students have been understanding of why the spider web climber has been closed off temporarily.
“It’s okay because I don’t really go on it [the climber],” added Grade 2 student Noa Haikin.
Le Vecque added that “people might come up and poke it [the nest],” if the fence wasn’t up.
Learning commons teacher and bird enthusiast, Angela Weber, has been using the killdeer nest as a teaching opportunity.
She’s been researching the species to teach students about killdeer nests, sounds, habits, diet, predators, and more.
“We’ve never had one nesting on our school ground before. They [killdeer] run around on the field, but they’ve never nested here,” Weber explained.
According to Weber, a property near the school has recently been clear-cut, which she believes is the reason why the killdeer nested at the school.
“Their whole habitat is gone, so they must have flown around and thought ‘well it’s quiet over there.’ It’s sad in the sense that this is what they thought would be a good habitat because there’s so little of it left around here. It would be nice to have more trees here.”
Another important lesson for the students is how to act around the nesting birds.
Weber explained visitors need to be quiet, respect the area, not throw things at the birds, and not leave food out.