How to Identify a Killdeer

How to Identify a Killdeer
The killdeer is a member of the plover family and is classified as a shorebird. It is found throughout the United States and Canada and heads south for the winter where the weather gets too cold. The killdeer is a conspicuous bird that many people have probably observed without fully realizing what kind of bird they have seen.


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Listen for the call of the killdeer. This bird got its name because of the shrill call that it makes. Pay close attention and you may hear the "kill-deer" cry that it emits as it runs and flies about.
Step 2
Watch for a bird that runs as much as it flies. Killdeer live in places like open fields, near riverbanks, on golf courses, at airports, around parking lots and in other open areas. A killdeer is known for running rapidly across the ground before stopping and gazing around, only to begin running again. This is when most people will spot a killdeer---while it is running to and fro.
Step 3
Look for a bird with a large head but a short bill. The killdeer is a typical plover in that it also has longish legs for its size; it is about as big as the American robin. Remember that the killdeer is tannish-brown on the top, white underneath, with a white chest. The chest has two stripes of black and the killdeer's brown face has white and black patches.
Step 4
Scrutinize just above the surface of rivers and lakes for the low-flying killdeer. Monitor bodies of water where the killdeer will wade along the shore and eat insects as well as small crustaceans. When a killdeer flies over water, it will seem to be just inches over its surface. They are especially fond of landing on sandbars to look for food.
Step 5
Notice what will appear to be an injured bird when you come too close to the killdeer's nest. The killdeer builds its nest on the ground in a shallow depression and, when perceived danger approaches, the killdeer will feign being injured, limp and flop around, and draw the danger away from its nest. Once it feels the nest is safe, the killdeer will then fly away. The nest is often built on pebbles in gravelly areas, with the eggs blending in so that they are almost invisible.

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