LENGTH 9-10 INCHES
WINGSPAN 19-21 INCHES
What is that bird doing in the median of a busy road miles from the shore? …
A question often asked about the Killdeer; a shorebird that is found as commonly in uplands as it is in wetlands.
Killdeer: grayish-brown back, white breast, two distinctive black rings around its neck, with a rusty “rump”, long tail, black bill, red ring around the eye and light pink/gray legs.
One characteristic behavior of Killdeer is that when arriving on nesting territories, which may be fields, lawns, riverbanks, or airports (and often near human habitation), the male will scrape an area on the ground with hardly any vegetation on it forming a nest-like area. He will then fly erratically, in high circular flights over the area, to entice the female. When a pair is formed a nest is scraped out of the sand or gravel. (Killdeer have been known to nest on gravel rooftops, vacant parking lots, and one was even found between the ties on a RR track…a track still in use!).
When the nest is complete, three to four buff colored eggs are laid, with both the male & female incubating, which takes 24-28 days. If it is very hot a parent will shade the nest with its wings during the hot afternoons and will often dip its breast in water (belly soaking) to cool the eggs. The young are born able to run, follow their parents, and find their own food; they are able to fly after about 25 days. Often the female Killdeer will start a second nest while the male is still tending young from the first nest.
Probably the most notable behavior of the adult birds is called the “broken wing display”. If a nest is threatened one of the parent birds will distract the predator by dropping and spreading one wing, flaring its tail and seemingly dragging itself away from the young, calling loudly. Once the predator begins to follow the “injured” bird and it has been led far enough away, the bird will fly away calling loudly.
The killdeer diet is about 75% insects; beetles, caterpillars, ticks, and some weed seeds. They have been known to follow the tractors of farmers looking for insects that have been disturbed by plowing. Killdeer chick predators include raccoons, squirrels, fox, cats and short-eared owls.
Killdeers migrate to Central America, the Caribbean and Northern South America. They are early migrants in the spring and may be seen on breeding grounds as early as February or March. It is perhaps one of the most widespread of North America’s shorebirds.
By a field or near the shore, keep your eyes open for this wonderful bird. You may hear it before you see it as it repeatedly calls its name-“killdeer-killdeer-killdeer”.
The following photos were submitted by members of the Long Island Wildlife Photography Group on Facebook
Check out the rest of the images on pages 2 and 3.