Bird of the Month: Killdeer

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Killdeer)

PC: Mick Thompson (Killdeer)

Scientific Name: Charadrius vociferus

Length 9-11 in

AOU Band code KILL

The Killdeer (KILL) is 9-11" in length. It is the only North American plover with two neck-rings. Coloring is dark brown above and white below. Its light reddish-brown rump is easily seen in flight or when the bird displays. The downy young have only one neck band. The Killdeer is noisy and highly adaptable. It is gregarious except when nesting. Flocks may be active all day and night, calling all night long. It is easily alarmed, taking off readily and the flight and warning cries often panic all other birds. 

The call is a ringing kill-dee or kill-deer. It also has a repeated cries of dee-dee-dee. When feeding it alternately runs and stands still, then dabs suddenly with bill at the ground. Its diet is mostly insects, beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants, bugs, flies, ticks, spiders, etc. The Killdeer is found throughout North America in all kinds of open habitat: lawns, pastures, plowed fields, prairies, mud flats and shorelines. Patches of gravel are the preferred nesting sites. The nest is a scraped depression in bare ground with pebbles added. Three to five eggs, usually four, are laid. The eggs are pale brown with darker spots. The incubation is 24-28 days and fledging 25 days later. They may have two broods in one season. Killdeer are well known for their "broken-wing displays" to distract predators. They appear to be injured and run along the ground dragging their wing.