vociferus [kar ad rE' uhs vO sif' er uhs]
The killdeer is 8-11 inches long, and has a
wingspan of 18-19 inches. It has brown upper
feathers and a white underside, a brown head with
black band between the eyes, white 'eyebrows,'
and black bands around the upper chest. The bill
is sharp and black, and the legs and tail are
long. Males and females are the same size and
have identical coloring.
Distribution and Habitat
The killdeer's summer range extends from
Alaska east to Newfoundland, south to southern
Mexico and the Caribbean; there are also
scattered populations in Costa Rica, coastal
Peru, and northwestern Chile. Its winter range
extends from British Columbia to the Ohio Valley
and Massachusetts, south throughout most of the
United States, and into Central and extreme
northern Southern America.
Killdeer are very adaptable, and live quite
well in a variety of habitats, including open
grasslands, wetlands, fields, croplands,
pastures, short-grass prairies, sandbars, and
mudflats. They are very tolerant of human
civilization, and have even been known to nest in
the midst of heavy traffic areas, and in some
urban areas have even been known to nest on
graveled rooftops. Despite being classed as a
"shorebird," killdeer prefer to nest in
areas far from water.
Breeding usually takes place in April and May.
The male selects a nesting territory before
selecting a mate, which he will attempt to
attract by standing in his territory and making a
two-note call for hours at a time until the right
female "takes him up on his offer."
The nest is little more than a unlined shallow
depression on the open ground, usually located in
a graveled area. An average of four speckled eggs
are laid per clutch. The eggs are pointed,
relatively large, and so colored as to literally
"blend into" the gravel in which they
Incubation does not begin until all eggs are
laid, meaning that all chicks will hatch at the
same time regardless of how long it takes for the
clutch to be laid. Both parents share in
incubation, which takes 24-28 days.
Chicks hatch with their eyes open and can
begin running about as soon as they are dry, but
still rely on their parents for food and
protection. Killdeer parents are famous for their
"broken wing" displays, which they use
to distract potential threats to their chicks. If
someone approaches the nest or chicks, the parent
will flop around on the ground as if injured. If
approached, it will manage to stay just out of
reach until the intruder has been drawn a safe
distance away and then "miraculously"
get up and fly away. If a "dumb" animal
gets too close it will fluff itself up, display
its tail up over its head, and run at the animal
in an effort to chase it away.
Chicks fledge at about one month. A breeding
pair may have two broods in one year, depending
on local conditions.
The primary diet consists of insects, but some
berries and crustaceans are also eaten. In
agricultural areas, killdeer will often follow
agricultural plows and take up exposed worms.
Genus & Species Charadrius vociferus
All About Birds http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Killdeer/id
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