Although the killdeer classifies as a shorebird, it is more likely found living and nesting far from water. My first encounters with this bird was the first season I worked at the farm. I thought their song was 'pretty' until I heard it 5,000 time. Named for their call, the "kill-dee” or “deee” sound is familiar too many. When disturbed they emit the call notes in rapid sequence and the alarm call is a long, fast trill. Killdeer are found throughout North and Central America and they are relatively short-distance migrators.
Killdeer are in the plover family and are relatively large despite weighing in at just over 3 ounces. They are slender and have long pink-brown legs with a body length of about ten inches and a twenty inch wingspan. Juveniles are best described as little fuzz balls on stick legs, which are incredibly cute!
Killdeer are masters of deceit and camouflage. Their nest is a shallow depression in the ground and if lined at all, it is with pebbles, twigs and grass. We have seen nests built in our fields amongst various crops, and low vegetation. The speckled eggs blend in with open ground, and our clay like soil. Their nest's are often very difficult to locate. Males are known to scrape dummy nests that help to foil the efforts of predators, which has fooled us a time or two.
The adults are well-known for their broken-wing display that is used to lead perceived predators away from the nest. From what we have observed male's assumes most of the incubation and defense activity to allow the female more feeding time after laying the eggs. The young are precocial, typically spending only one day after hatching in the nest. They are then led by the parents to deeper cover to feed heavily on insects until they fledge after about four weeks.
Killdeers's are another species found on the farm that is very beneficial in controlling insect populations. Like most birds, they are highly susceptible to death from use of pesticides. These birds are safe settling in on the farm, free of pesticides, eating PLENTY of bugs, and enjoying our additional water features. We are happy putting these little birds to work. It's all part of creating a symbiotic relationship with the surrounding environment.