The Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is a medium-sized plover. The genus name Charadrius is a Late Latin word for a yellowish bird mentioned in the fourth-century Vulgate. It derives from Ancient Greek kharadrios a bird found in ravines and river valleys (kharadra, “ravine”). The specific vociferus is Latin and comes from vox, “cry” and ferre, “to bear.”
The adults have a brown back and wings, a white belly, and a white breast with two black bands. The rump is tawny orange. The face and cap are brown with a white forehead. The eyering is orange-red. The chicks are patterned almost identically to the adults and are precocial — able to move around immediately after hatching. The killdeer frequently uses a “broken wing act” to distract predators from the nest. It is named onomatopoeically after its call. [Wikipedia]
A shorebird you can see without going to the beach, Killdeer are graceful plovers common to lawns, golf courses, athletic fields, and parking lots. These tawny birds run across the ground in spurts, stopping with a jolt every so often to check their progress, or to see if they’ve startled up any insect prey. Their voice, a far-carrying, excited kill-deer, is a common sound even after dark, often given in flight as the bird circles overhead on slender wings. [All About Birds]
Killdeer Facts [All About Birds]
- Killdeer gets their name from the shrill, wailing kill-deer call they give so often. Eighteenth-century naturalists also noticed how noisy Killdeer are, giving them names such as the Chattering Plover and the Noisy Plover.
- The Killdeer’s broken-wing act leads predators away from a nest but doesn’t keep cows or horses from stepping on eggs. To guard against large hoofed animals, the Killdeer uses a quite different display, fluffing itself up, displaying its tail over its head, and running at the beast to attempt to make it change its path.
- Gravel rooftops attract Killdeer for nesting but can be dangerous places to raise a brood. Chicks may be unable to leave a roof because of high parapets and screened drain openings. Adults eventually lure chicks off the roof, which can be dangerous – although one set of chicks survived a leap from a seven-story building.
- The oldest recorded Killdeer was at least 10 years, 11 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Kansas.