Bird of the Week #21: Killdeer


Killdeer are all over the place in my neighborhood, absolutely loving the large cotton field behind my home and are found running around all over the place. Though they can fly, I rarely see killdeer do anything except for run around on their long little legs. The way they run around is entertaining too, watching them stand perfectly erect as they dart around, their legs moving a million miles an hour.

You’re probably wondering why exactly they’re called killdeer. After all, it’s not likely that such a small bird could be a match for the much, much larger deer. But, indeed, in a true David and Goliath, the killdeer is quite possibly the single most prolific predator of North America’s deer population, outside of the human.

I’m joking.


The killdeer gets its name from its call and not from killing deer. They have a whiny, high-pitched call that sounds like it’s saying “killdeer” over and over. They are quite unmistakable and you’ll certainly hear them if you spend enough time in the Great Plains. The call of the killdeer tends to fade into the background if you’re around the abundant farmland for a while.

You’ll typically only find killdeer on the ground, running around in zigzags as they search for something to eat or just do killdeer stuff. They like to live in fields or in wetlands, so you may see them around water. The killdeer is a species of plover, which is a family of wading birds. Most plovers live on shores, but don’t swim like waterfowl. The killdeer will venture more inland, unlike some other types of plover.

Perhaps the most famous behavior of the killdeer is their acting. Killdeer aren’t the fastest or toughest of birds and their nests are on the ground, making them easily accessible to predators. If the killdeer can’t fight their attackers off, what’s left? Acting! When the killdeer detects a threat near its nest, the parent will stick out one of its wings, acting as though its broken. The killdeer will do everything it can to get the attention of the would-be predator, hoping they will not find the nest and instead pursue the easy prey. Once the predator has been sufficiently distracted, the killdeer will simply fly off, predator none the wiser.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to actually attract a killdeer to your yard. They are not songbirds who fly around and visit to eat seeds. The killdeer primarily feeds on insects and will forage for seeds in fields, but won’t visit your bird feeders. If you live near a field, you might be able to spot one running around the neighborhood. I see them all the time in people’s yards searching for worms, caterpillars, or whatever else they snack on.

I think the killdeer are quite cute! Please, enjoy the photos I’ve taken and let me know your experiences with them.

A note about the state of the blog:

I know I apologized for the lack of content on my last post, but it got even worse. I’m absolutely swamped and I hate it. I started this as a passion project because, well, birds are neat and I wanted to share it. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten the readership or interest I was hoping for, so my interest dropped with everything else going on. That’s just me being honest with you. I haven’t had time to get photos lately and haven’t even touched my camera. I’m hoping to take a fun birding trip somewhere soon and I’ll hopefully get to update the blog with more then. But for now, it’s a little slow and I’m sorry.

One Comment on “Bird of the Week #21: Killdeer

  1. I have missed your posts lately! And I never knew why a killdeer was named that–so thanks.


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