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Species Description

Killdeer

Charadrius vociferus


Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Charadriidae

Description

Brown above and white below, with two dark breast bands. The Killdeer also has a white patch on its bill, and a white stripe above its eye. 27 cm (10.5 in) in length. While in flight, its rusty rump and tail are visible.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in mid-March, peaks in April and May, and extends into June. The nest is usually located in an open area, in a variety of locations from mowed fields to gravel parking lots. The nest is a small scrape in the ground, often lined with some soft material. The female lays 3-5 ,(usually 4) eggs that the adults incubate for 24-28 days. The young are precocial and cared for by the adults for 25 days. When flushed from the nest, the adults do a "broken-wing display." This distraction display commonly involves dragging one or both wings or the tail on the ground while making calls and fluttering as the bird moves away from the nest. Once sufficiently far from the nest, the adult will then fly or run away.

Natural History

This species is often associated with human landscapes. It frequents large fields, including airports, playing fields, pastures, and lawns in the winter and pastures, lawns, and farms during the summer. The Killdeer eats mostly small insects, some small invertebrates, and seeds, all of which it gets by picking the items off the ground. This species is migratory.

Range

The Killdeer occurs all year in the southern half of the United States, and only during the breeding season in the northern half. The winter range outside of the United States includes northern South America, Central America, and the Caribbean. In the Southeast, it is common throughout appropriate habitat.

Conservation Status

This species was once hunted, which limited its numbers. Now nesting near human disturbances may cause problems for reproductive success, because mowing, plowing, and driving in their nesting habitat can destroy nests. The Killdeer is fairly common and not listed as Threatened or Endangered in the Southeast.

Similar Species

During migration, the Killdeer could be confused with some other migrating plovers. The two breast bands are a good indication that the bird is a Killdeer.