A roof replacement project at the Schoharie Central School is turning into a lesson in wildlife conservation as contractors and school officials try not to disturb a nesting pair of federally protected birds discovered last week.
A crew from Titan Roofing started work to replace the roof on the older section of the bus garage when they found four eggs in a nest right in the middle of the roof.
Concerned the birds might be some kind of protected species, the roofers stopped what they were doing and went to tell school officials.
“They didn’t want to disturb it,” school Superintendent Brian Sherman said.
The nest is being protected by a nesting pair of killdeer, which have been returning to the nest periodically, he said.
Instead of trying to work around the birds, the workers cut out a 7-foot section of the rubberized roofing material from beneath them. They brought in a sheet of aluminum and slid it beneath the roofing material, Sherman said. The roofers moved the sheet about 6 feet at a time, waiting an hour between each move, and brought the nest to the newer section of the garage roof that’s not being worked on.
One of the nesting birds stayed with the nest the whole time it was being moved, Sherman said.
Sherman said he contacted the state Department of Environmental Conservation and described the winged visitors and learned they are a federally protected species of migratory bird.
Killdeer are not listed as threatened in New York state, according to Rick Georgeson, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. But they are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, so the DEC referred the school to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he said.
District officials also contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but haven’t received any input from that agency, Sherman said.
Gravel-covered roofs are among the list of preferred habitats for the killdeer, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” website.
The birds, with brownish color on top and white below, are marked with black and white patches, and they have long wings and a long pointed tail, according to the website. They have longish legs that help them run quickly.
“It’s a beautiful bird,” Sherman said.
He said the roofers could have just as easily ignored the birds and went about their work, but they didn’t, which provides an important lesson for students.
“You care about life, it doesn’t make any difference how small,” he said.