Physical characteristics: The killdeer is 8 to 11 inches in length (20 to 28 centimeters) and about 3.3 ounces (95 grams) in weight. It has two black bands on the breast and a dark line between the eyes.
The back is gray-brown in color while the belly is white. The killdeer has long wings and a long tail.
Geographic range: The killdeer is found throughout North America except in Alaska and northern Canada, through Central America, and in parts of northwest South America.
Habitat: The killdeer makes use of a variety of open habitats including mudflats, pastures, agricultural fields, roads, and sometimes even paved parking lots.
Diet: Killdeer eat primarily invertebrates, small vertebrates such as frogs or fish, and seeds and other plant material.
Behavior and reproduction: Killdeer get their name from their call, which sounds like "killdee killdee." Killdeer are often found in small or medium-sized flocks that may include other species of shorebirds. Some populations are migratory while others remain in the same place year-round. Pairs defend territories from other members of the species during the breeding season, and sometimes during the winter as well. Killdeer are monogamous, with a single male breeding with a single female. Often, individuals keep the same mate from one year to the next. Nests are either scraped on the ground or built on gravel-covered
Killdeer may feign, or fake, injury to trick a predator. The predator will follow the "injured" bird away from its nest, keeping the chicks safe. (© JLM Visuals. Reproduced by permission.)
rooftops. Females lay four eggs at a time. Eggs hatch after twenty-five days. Parents may wet their feathers before sitting on eggs to help keep them cool. Parents also defend nest and chicks from predators, animals that hunt them for food, usually by distracting potential predators.
Killdeer and people: No significant interactions between people and killdeer are known.
Conservation status: Killdeer are not currently considered threatened, although populations may be in decline in eastern North America due to interference from human activity. ■
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