Killdeer inhabit open areas such as sandbars, mudflats, and grazed fields. They are probably most familiar around towns, where they live on lawns, driveways, athletic fields, parking lots, airports, and golf courses. Generally the vegetation in fields inhabited by Killdeer is no taller than one inch. You can find Killdeer near water, but unlike many other shorebirds, they are also common in dry areas.Back to top
Feeds primarily on invertebrates, such as earthworms, snails, crayfish, grasshoppers, beetles, and aquatic insect larvae. Follows farmers' plows in hopes of retrieving any unearthed worms or insect larvae. Will also eat seeds left in agricultural lands. An opportunistic forager, Killdeer have been observed hunting frogs and eating dead minnows.Back to top
Killdeer nests are simple scrapes often placed on slight rises in their open habitats. Killdeer may make several scrapes not far away from each other before choosing one to lay in. The duplication may help to confuse predators.
Nest is a shallow depression scratched into the bare ground, typically 3-3.5 inches across. After egg-laying begins, Killdeer often add rocks, bits of shell, sticks, and trash to the nest. Curiously, these items tend to be light colored, and this tendency was confirmed in one experiment that gave Killdeer the choice between light and dark sticks.
|Clutch Size:||4-6 eggs|
|Number of Broods:||1-3 broods|
|Egg Length:||1.5 in (3.8 cm)|
|Egg Width:||1.1 in (2.7 cm)|
|Incubation Period:||22-28 days|
|Egg Description:||Buff-colored, heavily marked with blackish-brown.|
|Condition at Hatching:||Killdeer chicks hatch with a full coat of buffy down feathers and a single black breast band. They can walk out of the nest as soon as their feathers dry.|
Often seen in dry, flat landscapes, running and halting on the ground in search of insects and earthworms. Although the Killdeer is common around human habitation it is often shy, at first running away rather than flying. When a Killdeer stops to look at an intruder, it has a habit of bobbing up and down almost as if it had hiccupped. Near the nest, Killdeer distract predators by calling loudly, bobbing, and running away. Killdeer are some of the best-known practitioners of the broken-wing display, an attempt to lure predators away from a nest by feigning injury. Pairs of Killdeer tend to stay together for one to a few years.Back to top
Killdeer populations declined by an estimated 0.57% per year, for a cumulative decline of about 26% between 1966 and 2019, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 2.3 million and rates them 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of relatively low conservation concern. The Killdeer is one of the most successful of all shorebirds because of its fondness for human-modified habitats and its willingness to nest close to people. Because they live so close to people, however, Killdeer are vulnerable to pesticide poisoning and collisions with cars and buildings.Back to top
Andres, B. A., P. A. Smith, R. I. G. Morrison, C. L. Gratto-Trevor, S. C. Brown, and C. A. Friis (2012). Population estimates of North American shorebirds, 2012. Wader Study Group Bulletin 119:178–194.
Dunne, P. (2006). Pete Dunne's essential field guide companion. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, USA.
Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye (1988). The Birder's Handbook. A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds, Including All Species That Regularly Breed North of Mexico. Simon and Schuster Inc., New York, NY, USA.
Jackson, Bette J. and Jerome A. Jackson. (2000). Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.
Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.
Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.
Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.
Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.