A scrape nest is simply a slight (emphasize slight) depression on the ground in which the eggs are laid with little or no bedding material. Camouflage, of both the birds and eggs, is used to protect the nest. The killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) nest is a perfect example of a scrape nest.
I never cease to be amazed at the open spots killdeer chose to lay their eggs. This killdeer nest is located on a flat, rocky expanse near our driveway (Lookout CA) only about twenty feet from the road. Granted it is a little-travelled county road – but still!
While the female killdeer watches, the male finds a nesting spot and with his breast lowered scrapes a shallow depression in the ground with his feet then sits in the nest. The female, again with lowered head, approaches and takes the male’s place in the depression. Calling continuously, the male then lifts and spreads his tail. Mating then occurs. Often killdeer will create several scrape nests near the one containing the eggs. This may be to confuse predators, however, I cannot see how any predator would even recognize such minimal construction as a nesting site.
Four to six buff eggs marked with brown and black are laid in the empty nest. Only after the eggs are laid will the parents add a few bits of material such as sticks, grasses or even trash. Studies on killdeer show that they prefer to add lighter rather than dark colored materials to their nests. The chicks emerge after 22 to 28 days of incubation. At birth the chicks are covered in a full coat of buff colored down with a single black breast stripe. As soon after hatching as the chicks’ feathers are dry, the young birds leave the nest for a more sheltered location.
Now I only hope a bull snake or other predator does not find this killdeer nest.