Killdeer are well-known for their piercing “kill-deeah” call (a call which gave the bird its name) and for the feigned wounded antics they use to distract predators from their nest.
Scientific name: Charadrius vociferus
Nicknames: Meadow plover, killdeer plover
Claim to fame: Killdeer are well-known for their piercing “kill-deeah” call (a call which gave the bird its name) and for the feigned wounded antics they use to distract predators from their nest. They are also known for the rudimentary nests they make in roadside gravel, gravel bars and other seemingly exposed areas.
Species status: Killdeer are abundant throughout Missouri and much of North America. A major reason for the bird’s large numbers is its preference for human-modified habitats. While this poses some problems in the way of nest destruction from humans, automobiles, or pets; it also has huge advantages in that it keeps this ground-nesting bird away from many of its predators.
First discovered: The first scientific description of the killdeer was written by the famed naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758.
Family matters: Killdeer belong to the bird family Charadriidae, a group commonly known as the plovers. In this family, the killdeer is something of an anomaly: Unlike most plovers which are commonly found in and around wetlands, marshes or mudflats; killdeer are often associated with grasslands and other non-aquatic areas. (However, killdeer can also be found in shallow wetland areas, too, and are classified in many birding circles as a “shorebird.”)
Length: nine inches to 11 inches
Diet: invertebrates, insects and seeds
Weight: information unavailable
Distinguishing characteristics: Killdeer are grayish brown with two conspicuous dark brown bands in its neck/breast area. These two bands are separated by a white band. Killdeer also have a white strip above their eye and a white patch on their bill.
Life span: Killdeer have been known to live as long as 10 years, but the average life span is probably three to five years.
Habitat: Killdeer have been found in a variety of habitats, but in this part of the state, they are often found in open grassy areas (pastures, fields, large lawns, etc.).
Life cycle: The breeding season begins in March and runs into early summer. As mentioned above, their nests are often little more than scrapes in gravelly or pebbly areas. The female lays from three to five eggs. The eggs are a tan with dark speckles. This color scheme blends into gravel and pebbles and thus, the eggs are not quite as obvious as one might think. Plus, the eggs are often in locations where predators don’t spend much time looking – it’s too obvious. So, using a bit of reverse psychology, laying their eggs in an open location is a killdeer’s instinctual way of out-thinking its predator. Both parents tend to the nest and eggs hatch in 24 to 28 days. The chicks remain with the parents until they are able to fly, which is 20 to 31 days after hatching.