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Ottawa Bird Eggs Get Moved


This week, a crew showed up to begin construction of the main stage of the Ottawa Bluesfest only to find the space already in use by a nest of eggs tended by a killdeer, a bird that Canada lists as protected. Construction of the main stage couldn't continue without federal permission.

Monika Melichar holds a government-issued permit to relocate and incubate eggs, and she volunteered to do so at the festival grounds. She also runs the Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario and joins us from there. Thanks so much for being with us.

MONIKA MELICHAR: Oh, well, thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: So what did you find when you got to the Bluesfest?

MELICHAR: Wow, what I found was a whole slew of people standing around waiting on me to come and to help them move these nests. They were a little behind - well, a few days behind on being able to construct the stage. And more or less all the operations were halted until that nest could be moved.

SIMON: Where'd you move it?

MELICHAR: We moved it only 25 meters away from the area that it was originally in. And we moved it into a much safer spot away from the festival activities and behind the stage, where the stage was going to go, behind there and barricaded it so it continued to be protected.

SIMON: Now, I confess I had to look up the killdeer. It's a bird with rings around its neck, has a distinctive cry. Do you do the cry?

MELICHAR: Oh (laughter), I could never get my voice high enough (laughter).

SIMON: All right. It's a kind of lyrical cry. But, you know, I can see where it stays with people. And how are they doing? Can you tell?

MELICHAR: They are doing fine. Now, where they are located, these are definitely birds - the two parents are used to having a lot of traffic and commotion around them because they're pretty well in down - the downtown core. So to - they should be quite fine with having, you know, a certain amount of activity around them. As for the louder music, well, we're just going to have to wait and see how that affects them.

SIMON: Is it difficult to move a killdeer nest?

MELICHAR: It has never been done. It has been done on plovers, which are very similar species, so there is documented cases of moving their nest. And that is exactly what we used because they are so similar in their nature and their habits. So since it's never been done, it was kind of an interesting thing to do, for one thing. And it was very exciting to be able to be, you know, the first ones to successfully do it. But the idea of moving the nest one meter at a time and waiting 20 minutes was very painstaking and did take the course of almost two days to accomplish that.

SIMON: And why do you have to do it that way?

MELICHAR: Well, if we just took the nest and moved it the 25 meters, the parents may have not recognized that their nest had been moved. Originally, when we first started moving it, they would always return to the original site to see, oh, my eggs aren't there anymore. Where are they? So they'd look and, yes, there they are. They're only a meter away.

SIMON: Ms. Melichar, are you going to go to the Bluesfest?

MELICHAR: I wish I could. I have been invited. They offered me free passes and for all - even for our volunteers. And we are at such a busy time right now that really the animals do come first.

SIMON: You have a lot of baby birds, I gather, at the...

MELICHAR: We have a lot of baby birds. And they require feedings every 15 minutes. So it's not like we can just go away (laughter), not, you know, for an afternoon or something. We are more or less tied to the sanctuary right now.

SIMON: Well, you're doing a lot of important work. Monika Melichar runs the Woodlands Wildlife Sanctuary in Ontario. Thanks so much for being with us.

MELICHAR: Well, thank you so much for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.