Web Analytics
The Ivory Bill·Birds·Shorebirds
 

Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus

Killdeer standing near sand dunes.

Killdeer are shorebirds that breed in a variety of open habitats across North America, including fields, pastures, gravel roads, and shores, from late March to early August.

Killdeer are commonly found in areas with sparse vegetation, such as gravelly or sandy shores, agricultural fields, and lawns, where insects such as beetles and grasshoppers are abundant during the breeding season.

They forage in mudflats, grasslands, and shallow water edges for beetles, grasshoppers, earthworms, snails, and small crustaceans. They may also feed on seeds and berries when invertebrates are less available.

Killdeer have a distinct foraging behavior that includes running in short bursts, stopping abruptly, and pecking at prey on the ground or just below the surface. Their long legs and keen eyesight allow them to spot and capture small prey efficiently.

Courtship involves elaborate displays where males perform a “scraping” display, creating several shallow depressions in the ground and calling to attract a mate. Males also perform aerial displays, flying high with slow, deep wingbeats while calling loudly.

Nest building involves both parents, who create a simple scrape on the ground, often lined with pebbles, grass, and other small debris. Nests are typically located in open areas with good visibility to spot predators.

Egg laying occurs from late March to early June, with the female usually laying four eggs. Both parents share incubation duties, which last about 24 to 28 days. Upon hatching, the chicks are precocial and leave the nest shortly after drying. Initial diets for chicks consist of small insects and invertebrates, which the parents help them find.

Chicks learn to forage by following their parents and mimicking their behaviors. They face vulnerabilities such as predation by foxes, raccoons, and birds of prey, as well as human disturbances. Parental care involves guiding chicks to food sources and protecting them from threats.

Chick fledging occurs around 25 to 31 days after hatching, with continued guidance from adults as the chicks refine their foraging techniques. Their diet broadens to include a wider range of insects and invertebrates as they grow.

Killdeer are partial migrants, with northern populations migrating to the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America for the winter. Migration occurs from late August to October, following inland and coastal routes.

Wintering habitats include coastal mudflats, sandy beaches, and inland agricultural fields, where they forage for insects, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. Their diet in winter is diverse, reflecting the variety of food available in these habitats.

Killdeer typically leave their wintering grounds in late February to early March, returning north to their breeding areas as temperatures rise and food becomes more abundant.