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Killdeer Facts

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Would you like to know about one of the most interesting birds that are found in North America? They are the killdeers (Charadrius vociferus). Do not be alarmed by their name, as they are a species of birds, they do not kill deers. However, their name is mainly derived from the kill-dee call that they make. This bird species is quite interesting for their double-banded look that is present on their chest and head. They are small to medium-sized birds that live in the Nearctic and Neotropical regions of North and South America. These birds are quite susceptible to predators, so they have devised a technique known as the broken wing display to get rid of the pesky beasts. Killdeers are mostly solitary birds, but they do get into monogamous groups during the breeding season. Some killdeer groups also participate in migration when the temperatures get very cold. Keep on reading more to learn more interesting killdeer facts.

Also, check out the articles on magpies and least terns to know more about birds.

Killdeer Facts

What do they prey on?

Aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, crustaceans, insects

What do they eat?

Plants and Meat

Average litter size?

4-6 eggs

How much do they weigh?

2.5-4.3 oz (72-121 g)

How long are they?

7.9-11 in (20-28 cm)Wingspan: 18.1-18.9 in (46-48 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Reddish-orange with white and black

Skin Type


What were their main threats?

Raccoons, Foxes, Snakes, Skunks, Coyotes, Birds Of Prey

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them?

Savannas, Agricultural Areas, Parks, Deciduous Forest, Taiga


North America, South America, Nearctic Regions, Neotropical Regions









Killdeer Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a killdeer?

The killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is a type of bird that is endemic to North America and South America. They are often clubbed with other plover species.

What class of animal does a killdeer belong to?

The killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) belongs to the class Aves as it is a kind of bird and from the family Charadriidae.

How many killdeers are there in the world?

As killdeers are commonly found South American and North American birds, it can be hard to estimate their exact population. However, the IUCN Red List estimates a population of 1 million killdeers present in this world, while Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 2.3 million. 

Where does a killdeer live?

The killdeer is found in areas such as the savannas, taiga, deciduous forest, parks, and agricultural areas of the Nearctic and Neotropical regions, which are predominantly found in North and South America.

What is a killdeer's habitat?

Killdeers may have a diverse habitat based on their location as they are spread over a huge geographical area. They are one of those species in the plover family that doesn't get associated with water. The killdeer is mainly ground-dwelling and forages for food while walking rather than during the flight. Shorelines, taiga, savannas, high altitude regions, deciduous forests, parks, agricultural areas, and plains are some of their choices of habitat. They like to live in favorable tropical or temperature weather. Though they aren't hugely migratory birds, killdeer migration has been observed when the temperatures start getting extremely cold.

Who do killdeers live with?

Killdeers are mostly solitary birds, but during the breeding season, they do come together in monogamous pairs. The males and females both play an equally important role in taking care of the killdeer chicks.

How long does a killdeer live?

The killdeer can live up to be of 10 years in the wild. The lifespan of the killdeer hasn't been heavily studied. However, their chances of survival are drastically reduced due to predators invading the killdeer bird nesting either to eat the eggs or to destroy the killdeer chicks. During certain breeding seasons, there is a 52%-63% chance that the hatchlings wouldn't survive to become fledglings. Sometimes, the birds lose 53% of their eggs because of predators like crows, snakes, and foxes, among other larger predators. 

How do they reproduce?

Killdeers are monogamous in nature, so they usually form breeding pairs, especially during the Spring months. The male killdeers are in charge of finding a territory that is suitable for nesting. After finding the place, the male tries to attract a female with flight displays as well as with a piercing call. Some pairs live together for life and get themselves involved in breeding to produce multiple broods of young chicks. In the United States, the killdeers usually start forming the nest in March, but in Canada, they may wait till June to start the nest. Some killdeer raise three or more broods in a year, but most parents will focus on saving the young of their single brood.

The killdeer usually makes its nest in a natural depression of the ground. Usually, the clutch size for a female is between four to six eggs, and the eggs are white in color with dark splotches. The average incubation time for the killdeer egg is 24-28 days, after which the killdeer chick is born. The parents are very careful about any predators that might be present in the area. The family is tight-knit for the killdeers, and rather than feeding the chicks, the parents take them on hunting sessions to look for their own food, which includes insects and seeds. The young birds can take up walking quite quickly. They also learn to take flight within 20-31 days of hatching. It takes about one year for a killdeer to reach sexual maturity to have its own brood. There is a myth that killdeers abandon their eggs, but they do not do that. However, the female may leave the eggs before she has laid all of them.

What is their conservation status?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the current status of the killdeer is of Least Concern. They are also protected under the American Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Even though their numbers aren't declining drastically, the killdeer predators often cut down the rate of survival for these plovers.

Killdeer Fun Facts

What do killdeers look like?

These birds are quite susceptible to predators

The most iconic mark on the body of a killdeer is the double breast band. The breast band is usually black or of darker color compared to the rest of their body. Apart from the bands that cover their breast, the kildeer also has a band on its head, which is usually situated between its eyes. The upper body of the bird and its wings are grayish brown colored, while the lower half is usually white. The birds also have a reddish-orange rump that is usually visible during flight. They have black or dark brown eyes that are encircled with a red or pink band. You will find killdeer birds walking with their long legs, which are especially helpful when they are finding aquatic invertebrates in swampy areas. The tail of the birds is also interesting as it almost looks like an ombre where the brown fades into gray and then black. Finally, the tail end looks like it has been dipped into white paint. The wings also have black and white accents on them. The male and female Killdeer plovers look quite similar. The young killdeers do look different as their bands might not be fully formed or vibrant. When the chicks are born, they are usually covered in a grayish-brown down.

How cute are they?

Yes, they are extremely cute birds and they look exquisite because of the double-banded look which is also found in the young killdeers.

How do they communicate?

The killdeer is eponymous with their 'kill-dee' sound that rings like an alarm clock. It even helps the other animals to get notified about certain things. The killdeer call is enhanced during the nesting season and is performed by both male and female birds of the species. The killdeer call may also include sounds like dee-dee-dee, deee, or tyee sounds. The killdeer species can be really loud with their piercing call. So, the main form of communication for the killdeer is through vocalization.

How big is a killdeer?

The average length of the killdeer adults is 7.9-11 in (20-28 cm). The birds have a wingspan of 18.1-18.9 in (46-48 cm) which is certainly more than their body size. They have a similar body length to that of an American robin that reaches a length of around 7.9-11.0 in (20-28 cm), but the robin lacks the large wingspan of the killdeer.

How fast can a killdeer run?

The killdeers are plovers so they move on land quite efficiently. They are known for hunting crustaceans and other animals in a jiffy. As a wild bird species, not much is known about their exact running speed. However, their large wingspan allows them to fly smoothly even at night.

How much does a killdeer weigh?

The average weight of the adults ranges between 2.5-4.3 oz (72-121 g). The male killdeer often is a little bigger compared to the females.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no district names from the killdeer male and female adults.

What would you call a baby killdeer?

The killdeer babies are known as chicks. When the baby killdeer birds fall out of the nest to start their lives they are known as fledglings.

What do they eat?

The diet of this bird species is identified as omnivore even though they mainly feed on insects along with invertebrates found on land and water. This is because they do like eating fruits, berries, and seeds as well as crustaceans. They are mainly plovers, so they use their bill for hunting for the invertebrates in swampy areas as well as on land. However, they are the species that are least associated with water among all other similar species.

Are they friendly?

The name killdeer may sound very intimidating, but it is mainly because of the killdeer sound that is piercing. Excluding this, this bird has not shown any behavioral pattern that suggests aggressiveness. However, since they are wild birds, they may have the tendency to peck at you harshly if they feel threatened to protect their nests and babies.

Would they make a good pet?

No, wild birds do not make good pets. Even though the killdeer is a highly intelligent bird, they aren't meant to live in a home. These birds also migrate from time to time, so their life will be dismantled if they have to live in a human household. However, as killdeer plover qualities are seen so you may spot the species near your home, you should help them out with some seeds and nuts to make them happy.

Did you know...

The Killdeers forages mainly during the daytime but they can also forage at night especially in the non-breeding season. This is one of the reasons for which you can see a killdeer flying during the full moon nights.

The three subspecies of killdeer are C. v. vociferus, C. v. ternominatus, and C. v. peruvianus.

In central Ohio, USA there is a natural park named the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area.

What is the killdeer broken wing trick?

Well, the killdeer bird can be considered a good actor because of their broken-wing display that they use on predators to veer them away from their nests. The killdeer gets out of the killdeer bird nest and pretends that it has an injured wing while dragging it around. Once the predators leave the killdeer nest, keeping the killdeer eggs safe, the parent killdeer takes flight going back to the nest. A killdeer may also bob its head and produce a loud noise to distract the predators.

What call do males killdeer make when mating?

The 'kill-dee' song which has an alarm-like feel is the main mating call for the killdeer. It is done by both male and female killdeers during the breeding season. At least two forms of the call have been detected during their breeding time and are highlighted as the killdeer bird sounds. At times the plovers can also make the dee-dee-dee sound.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including umbrellabirds or brown thrashers.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our killdeer coloring pages.

Written By
Moumita Dutta

<p>A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.</p>

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