At a Glance

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.
Plovers, Sandpiper-like Birds
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats, Running

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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


9-11" (23-28 cm). Two black chest bands; white collar. Rather long tail is mostly orange. Downy young may have only a single black band; compare to small plovers.
About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Orange, Red, White
Wing Shape
Narrow, Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Pointed, Rounded, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

A shrill kill-deee, fill-deee or killdeer, killdeer. Also dee-dee-dee.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Rising
Call Type
Trill, Whistle


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.



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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Despite local declines in some urbanized areas, still widespread and abundant.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Killdeer. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Killdeer

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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