Living Bird Magazine
- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Charadriidae
A shorebird you can see without going to the beach, Killdeer are graceful plovers common to lawns, golf courses, athletic fields, and parking lots. These tawny birds run across the ground in spurts, stopping with a jolt every so often to check their progress, or to see if they’ve startled up any insect prey. Their voice, a far-carrying, excited kill-deer, is a common sound even after dark, often given in flight as the bird circles overhead on slender wings.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Killdeer are surprisingly unobtrusive even on green lawns, despite their warm tawny coloration. Look carefully over lawns, short-mown fields, and even parking lots, and listen for the far-carrying kill-deer. (When you hear this call, the bird may be in flight. Look for it circling you, flying stiffly on long, pointed wings. It may resemble an American Kestrel, at least until it lands on the ground and begins walking.) Though they're often found on dry land, you should also look for them on the edges of freshwater ponds and muddy lagoons.
- Chorlitejo Culirrojo (Spanish)
- Pluvier kildir (French)
Doesn’t visit feeders, but if your backyard or neighborhood contains expansive, cultivated lawns or grazed fields then you could find Killdeer foraging on your property.
- Cool Facts
- Killdeer get their name from the shrill, wailing kill-deer call they give so often. Eighteenth-century naturalists also noticed how noisy Killdeer are, giving them names such as the Chattering Plover and the Noisy Plover.
- Gravel rooftops attract Killdeer for nesting, but can be dangerous places to raise a brood. Chicks may be unable to leave a roof because of high parapets and screened drain openings. Adults eventually lure chicks off the roof, which can be dangerous – although one set of chicks survived a leap from a seven-story building.
- The Killdeer’s broken-wing act leads predators away from a nest, but doesn’t keep cows or horses from stepping on eggs. To guard against large hoofed animals, the Killdeer uses a quite different display, fluffing itself up, displaying its tail over its head, and running at the beast to attempt to make it change its path.
- A well-known denizen of dry habitats, the Killdeer is actually a proficient swimmer. Adults swim well in swift-flowing water, and chicks can swim across small streams.
- The male and female of a mated pair pick out a nesting site through a ritual known as a scrape ceremony. The male lowers his breast to the ground and scrapes a shallow depression with his feet. The female then approaches, head lowered, and takes his place. The male then stands with body tilted slightly forward, tail raised and spread, calling rapidly. Mating often follows.
- Killdeer lay their eggs into an empty nest but add other materials later on. Some of these items they pick up as they are leaving and toss over their shoulder into the nest. In one nest in Oklahoma, people found more than 1,500 pebbles had accumulated this way.
- The oldest recorded Killdeer was at least 10 years, 11 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Kansas.