Students kicked off part of Litchfield playground after engandered birds lay eggs.By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
April 22. 2014 10:19PM
LITCHFIELD - Two federally protected birds have laid eggs in the middle of the Griffin Memorial Elementary School playground, prompting school administrators to cordon off a small area in hopes the eggs will thrive.
The pair of birds, believed to be migratory killdeer, left the two eggs in the playground's bark mulch this past weekend.
Kindergarten students and a paraprofessional noticed the two birds hovering in the area on Monday and spotted the two speckled eggs. As a precaution against disturbing the eggs, Principal Scott Thompson kept students inside during recess on Monday. The school also contacted the state Fish and Game Department and the Audubon Society of New Hampshire.
"Since the birds do not seem to be around when the children are outside, we decided to set up a small barrier that would allow the kids to still play outside while keeping the eggs safe," Thompson said Tuesday.
"I can't keep them inside forever. So, I think we are doing what we can. The kids have really been great about this."
According to Becky Suomala, a biologist with the Audubon Society, killdeer are very common in New Hampshire, and they are not endangered or threatened. Even so, Suomala stressed, they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, meaning the law prevents their nests from being disturbed.
Killdeer typically do not build nests, but instead lay their eggs in open space, explained Suomala.
"They like to nest on open, flat ground such as construction sites, farm fields and roofs," she said. "They seem to be fairly tolerant of disturbance, but you cannot move the nest to a different location."
This is not the first time that a local school district has contacted the organization about killdeer eggs being laid on playgrounds, according to Suomala.
"Hopefully the birds will adapt to the activity there. If they don't, they could abandon the eggs if it isn't adaptable," she said.
Typically, killdeer eggs hatch after about 24 days of incubation. The baby birds will often fly within just 24 hours.
If the nesting is successful, there is a chance the two adult birds will return next year to lay their eggs in the same location or nearby, Suomala said.
She said the school is giving the eggs the best opportunity for success by securing the area.
"We have warned the students to be respectful and careful. We realize it is difficult though, as these eggs are right out there in the open," Thompson said.
On Tuesday, the birds were elusive during school hours, as there was significant outdoor activity with students cleaning the school grounds and planting flowers in honor of Earth Day.