Photo: Daniel D Auria/Audubon Photography Awards

Killdeer

Charadrius vociferus

Widespread, common, and conspicuous, the Killdeer calls its name as it flies over farmland and other open country. Like other members of the plover family, this species is often found at the water's edge, but it also lives in pastures and fields far from water. At times, it nests on gravel roofs or on lawns. Many a person has been fooled by the bird's "broken-wing" act, in which it flutters along the ground in a show of injury, luring intruders away from its nest.
Conservation status Despite local declines in some urbanized areas, still widespread and abundant.
Family Plovers
Habitat Fields, airports, lawns, river banks, mudflats, shores. Often found on open ground, such as pastures, plowed fields, large lawns, even at a great distance from water. Most successful nesting areas, however, have some shallow water or other good feeding area for the chicks. Also commonly found around water, on mudflats, lake shores, coastal estuaries.
Widespread, common, and conspicuous, the Killdeer calls its name as it flies over farmland and other open country. Like other members of the plover family, this species is often found at the water's edge, but it also lives in pastures and fields far from water. At times, it nests on gravel roofs or on lawns. Many a person has been fooled by the bird's "broken-wing" act, in which it flutters along the ground in a show of injury, luring intruders away from its nest.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, distraction display
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

Typically they run a few steps and then pause, then run again, pecking at the ground whenever they spot something edible. May follow farmers plowing fields, to feed on grubs turned up by the plow.


Eggs

Usually 4, sometimes 3-5. Buff, blotched with black and brown. Incubation is by both parents, 24-28 days. In very hot climates, adults shade eggs in mid-day, may soak belly feathers to help cool eggs. Young: Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Young are tended by both parents, but feed themselves. Age of young at first flight roughly 25 days. In some warmer parts of range, Killdeers raise 2 broods per year.


Young

Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Young are tended by both parents, but feed themselves. Age of young at first flight roughly 25 days. In some warmer parts of range, Killdeers raise 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly insects. Feeds on a wide variety of insects, including beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, fly larvae, many others; also eats spiders, earthworms, centipedes, crayfish, snails. Eats small amounts of seeds as well.


Nesting

In breeding season, male flies high over nesting territory in floating, wavering flight, with slow, deep wingbeats, giving kill-dee call repeatedly. On ground, courtship displays include ritualized nest-scrape making. Nest site is on ground in open area with good visibility, as on bare soil, short-grass field, gravel road; sometimes on gravel roof. Nest is shallow scrape in soil or gravel, either unlined or lined with pebbles, grass, twigs, bits of debris.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migratory in north, may be permanent resident in south. Spring migration is very early, returning to some northern areas in February or March.

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Migration

Migratory in north, may be permanent resident in south. Spring migration is very early, returning to some northern areas in February or March.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A shrill kill-deee, fill-deee or killdeer, killdeer. Also dee-dee-dee.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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