One California high school’s long avian nightmare is finally over.
Rio Americano High on the east side of Sacramento received funding from two voter-approved bonds to renovate its main athletic field. The booster club had raised funds for years to complete other projects not covered by the bond money. The renovation, dubbed by the booster club the “Field of Dreams” project, funded an all-weather synthetic turf field for football, soccer and lacrosse, a brand new running track, shot put and discus throwing areas and sprinting and long-jump alleys.
The money also provided for a new snack bar, restrooms, box office and scoreboard.
“This is Rio’s opportunity to complete the dreams of many,” the booster club wrote on its fundraising page.
It was set to open with a boys’ lacrosse game on April 2, but days earlier construction workers doing a final check of the new turf field found a bird’s nest in the end zone.
It belonged to a family of killdeer, a roughly pigeon-size bird that likes to nest in open areas, such as arid soil, gravel, grassland, or in this case, artificial turf. Even though the birds are not endangered — in fact, they’re very common — they are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which makes it illegal to possess, sell or pretty much disturb any bird that migrates between the United States and Canada without a federal waiver.
So when the nest was discovered on Rio Americano’s new field, Principal Brian Ginter said the grand opening would have to wait. Construction crews erected a barrier around the nest so as not to disturb the birds or the four eggs inside.
The lacrosse team would just have to wait for them to hatch.
“The bird showed up, and we’ll just let it do it’s thing and then we’ll use the field when we can,” Ginter told the Sacramento Bee.
So the team, and community, waited. And waited.
It takes between 24 and 28 days for killdeer eggs to hatch, according to the National Audubon Society. Once they do, the family unit (both killdeer parents care for young) don’t maintain a nest and the field would be available for play.
“We’ve had parents inquire with us because they’re very anxious. They want to get on the field,” Ginter said. “But basically with when the bird came and what the incubation period is it’s only a few more days’ wait, so we’re just teaching students to be patient, and then we’ll use the field when we can.”
Finally, last Wednesday, the eggs hatched.
Rio Americano’s spring teams will get to play their first games in the new stadium next week, when the school returns from spring break, Ginter wrote in an email to The Washington Post.
Until then, the killdeer family still has the run of the roost, but thanks to their migratory patterns, they likely won’t be around when students return to campus.
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