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Charadrius vociferus
(Order Charadriiformes; Family Charadriidae)

Left: Charadrius vociferus wading (from Right: Charadrius vociferus in parking lot (photo by Alicia Oberg, 2011).

Diagnosis: Killdeer are relatively small birds, measuring only 7.9–11 inches in length, with a 18.1–18.9 inch wingspan, and weighing approximately 2.6-4.5 ounces. Adults have a brown back and wings with a sharply contrasting white underbelly and breast. The breast has two distinctive black bands on it. The rump, conspicuous in flight, is a tawny orange. The face and cap of the head are also brown, with a white face. Eyes are black with orange eye-ring.

Natural History: Killdeer nest on the ground, usually in some sort of a small depression. They may or may not line the nest with grass or twigs; killdeer will use their judgment of the surrounding area and materials to best camouflage their nest. The eggs, being white yet liberally speckled with dark brown, help in camouflage. Both male and female take turns incubating the eggs until they hatch, which takes roughly 24 to 28 days. Young are precocial when they hatch; able to see and forage soon after hatching.

Killdeer eggs in nest (from


Behavior: Killdeer use a "broken wing" act to help lure predators away from the nest.

Video of a Killdeer performing a 'broken wing' act: A Killdeer Luring Me Away From Its Nest 


Distribution: Found as far north as northern Canada and southern Alaska in the summer. They have a year-round presence in the southern portions of the United States south to Peru. This species is found throughout Kansas.


Call: Most of its sounds are variants on the common-name: kill-deer, kill-dee, dee-dee, etc. An alarm call is drawn out dee followed by a dit-dit-dit. The more recognizable call is also an alarm call, the down-slurred kill-deer kill-deer kill-deer.  To hear various calls:


Habitat: Grasslands, meadows, fields, pastures, low vegetation lawns, parking lots, sandbars, and mudflats.


Diet: Killdeer mainly consume insects, but will also eat various crustaceans and berries.


Conservation status: Least Concern.


Bird Watching:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Tringa Photography:

YouTube: A Killdeer Luring Me Away From Its Nest:


Robbins, Chandler S., Bertel Bruun, and Herbert S. Zim 1983. A Guide to Field Identification: Birds of North America. Golden Books, New York. 114 pp.

Kroodsma, Donald 2008. The Backyard Birdsong Guide: A Guide to Listening. Chronicle Books, San Francisco. 40-41 pp.


Image Credits:
Charadrius vociferus wading

Charadrius vociferus in parking lot.  Photo by Alicia Oberg, 2011

Killdeer eggs in nest

United States Distribution map


Submitted by: Alicia Oberg, July 2011.

Wichita State University
Generated on 2011. This website is continuously updated.
Comments can be sent to Mary Liz Jameson.
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