Habitat is Everywhere

July 06, 2012

We human beings tend to make distinctions in the landscape around us.  We call different areas such things as ‘urban development’, ‘housing’ and ‘wildlife habitat’, and make assumptions about what happens-and doesn’t happen- in each area.  Clearly, people use areas designated as ‘urban’ or ‘housing’ and wildlife sticks to the ‘wildlife habitat’, right?

“The thing is,” observes NCLC volunteer and nature photographer Neal Maine, “no one told the wildlife that they’re not supposed to be in the areas that we don’t see as ‘wildlife habitat’. To them, habitat is everywhere!”

To illustrate the point, Neal recently shared with us some great photos he had taken of a family of killdeer hanging out in Seaside. Killdeer are a type of plover, a breed that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes as “a shorebird you can see without going to the beach”. They like open, grassy spaces, and can often be observed on golf courses and athletic fields.

Their tawny coloring helps them to blend into a number of landscapes, and seems to work quite well with gravel as camoflage.  Killdeer adults have a very distinctive strategy to handle situations where their nest is threatened, elaborately faking a wing injury to distract the possible predator from the nest, and then flying off while shouting out their unmistakeable kill-deer call.

This North Coast killdeer family was headed for the Seaside High School football field when Neal spotted them in the school’s parking lot. “It really gives you a sense of perspective about the relative size of structures,” he comments.  “To us, the size of a curb in a parking lot is nothing, hardly a step up. To these young killdeer, it must seem like the Great Wall of China!”

And to the killdeer, the parking lot isn’t a parking lot, it’s just more habitat along a greater wildlife corridor for them to forage, nest and move through, even if they have to fly over a few man-made walls to do it.

A thoughtful discussion began as as we all looked through Neal’s killdeer-in-the-parking-lot photos.  It’s great that NCLC can conserve some of the really amazing natural wildlife habitat on the coast, but that only really works if we remember that for wildlife, those habitat reserves all connect along a corridor that includes places like the Seaside Outlet Mall, the Fred Meyers parking lot, the Astoria waterfront, and our own backyards.

Where do you see wildlife where you wouldn’t expect to see it?




  1. Nala Cardillo says:

    So cute!!! Thanks for sharing this. You guys are (always) awesome!