A Rebellious Bird Is Holding Up a Major Music Festival Because It Refuses to Move

A federally-protected killdeer and her eggs have created turmoil for Ottawa’s Bluesfest.
Image: Shutterstock

A mommy bird has threatened to stop the Foo Fighters and Dave Matthews Band from playing Canada’s Bluesfest in Ottawa next month.

One of the country’s biggest music festivals was thrown into limbo after the nest of a killdeer—a tawny-colored bird that’s protected by Canada’s government—was discovered where the main stage is supposed to be erected.

“I have to say this is one of the most challenging problems that we've been presented with recently,” Bluesfest executive director Mark Monahan told CBC on Monday. “But we feel we can work through this,” he added.


Workers discovered the killdeer guarding her clutch of speckled eggs last Friday. It was tucked into some cobblestone, as the species is known to nest on gravel, according to the National Audubon Society. (Some have also spotted a male killdeer patrolling the area.)

“When we came across this bird, some people suggested why don't you just move it? But we knew better,” Bluesfest communications director AJ Sauvé told Motherboard reporter Tracey Lindeman on the phone today. Sauvé said the festival has endured myriad challenges over the years.

Sauvé claims that security personnel are now guarding the nest constantly. “So no one reads this on social media and takes it upon themselves to [move them],” he added.

Killdeer, while not endangered, are federally protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act. This has forced organizers to seek permission from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to intervene, according to CBC. Sauvé said the festival is on National Capital Commission land.

These medium-sized plovers are known for their shrill cry—a “kill deer” cry, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They have brownish-tan wings and backs, white bellies, and black and white face patches. Most of a killdeer’s time is spent on the ground, but disturbing them can spur the birds into flight.

The incident has since been dubbed “Bluesnest,” and the bird momentarily had her own Twitter account, which has inexplicably been deleted.


Festival workers have also observed the killdeer’s distinctive broken-wing act. To lure predators away, they been known to flap around, and sort of drag one wing on the ground—a distraction display. It usually means you’re too close to their nest.

They’re very clever, Sauvé said, adding that the birds pretended to be injured during a news conference.

Clearly, the mother bird is stressed, which is why organizers are hoping the eggs will hatch within 24 hours. If not, Bluesfest is seeking the go-ahead to move them and have the eggs incubated.

Tampering with the nest could cause the killdeer to abandon her babies, reports the Washington Post.

According to Twitter, this whole meltdown is characteristically Canadian, which is adorable, but also I hope the bird ends up okay! (Lindeman confirmed that the incident is “very Ottawa.”)

For now, Sauvé says the festival is in a holding pattern as they await a federal response.

“We want to do more humane thing possible,” he added, “which is ensuring the safety of these eggs."

Tracey Lindeman contributed to reporting.