Charadrius vociferus

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Charadrius vociferous - Killdeer

Habitat They inhabit open areas like sandbars, mudflats, and grazed fields. They can live in towns where they are found on lawns, driveways, athletic fields, parking lots, airports, and golf courses. The vegetation that that killdeer lives in is usually no higher than one inch tall. They can be found near water but also in dry areas which is unlike other shorebirds.

Range They are found in summer (breeding season) in the lower regions of Canada and the upper regions of the United States. They are found year round in the lower half of the United States and most of the West Coast. They are found year round in Latin America and their range extends into the northern part of South America during winter (non-breeding).

Description They are a medium sized plover, about 8-11 inches in length, with a wingspan of about 18 inches, and weigh anywhere from 2.6 to 4.5 oz. They are about the size of a robin but with longer legs. They are brownish-tan on top and white below. The white chest is barred with two black bands, and the brown face is marked with black and white patches. They have a bright orange-buff rump that is conspicuous during flight. They have a short, straight, thin, black bill and a red eye ring that is easily identifiable.

Ecological Notes They get their name from the shrill kill-deer call they give. They have a broken wing act where they lay on the ground and pretend they have a broken wing in order to lure predators away from a nest. Since this display does not keep cows or horses from stepping on eggs so they will fluff themselves up and run at the beast to attempt to make them change their path. They are pretty fierce birds for their size. They are proficient swimmers and even the chicks can swim across small streams. They feed primarily on invertebrates such as earthworms, snails, crayfish, grasshoppers, beetles, and aquatic insect larvae. They will eat seeds left in agricultural lands and have been observed hunted frogs and eating dead minnows. Their conservation status is characterized as least concern.

Personal Information First seen at the Oregon Inlet during the trip. It showed the characteristic broken wing behavior to lure us away from the nest. It was the first time that I had seen a killdeer and this behavior and it was really cool to see. They were seen again at the Coastal Studies Institute of North Carolina where babies were seen with the adults. The adults exhibited the broken wing behavior again to lure us away from the nest and the babies.


Killdeer identification All about birds Birdwatching

Additional Information

Brunton, Dianne H., 1990. The effects of nesting stage, sex, and type of predator on parental defense by killdeer (Charadrius vociferous): testing models of avian parental defense. Behvavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 26: 181-190.

This article was looking at how the age of the nest, the gender of the parent and the type of predator affected the defense behavior of the killdeer. They found that the males and females were more aggressive during hatching time, the males were more aggressive overall, and they were more aggressive towards humans than other predators.

Lenington, Sarah. 1980. Bi-parental care in killdeer: An adaptive hypothesis. The Wilson Bulletin, 92(1): 8-20.

This study looked at the parental care that the killdeer show (two parents taking care of the brood). They hypothesized that there are two parents that take care of the young in order to defend the brood from predators and not for reasons such as brooding the chicks or detecting predators.

Contributed by Alicia Myatt - 2014

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