Born with Running Shoes On

Meet the Killdeer

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Killdeer chicks are born to run.

These adorable plovers hatch with their eyes open.

And as soon as their soft fluffy feathers dry, they’re off to the races following their parents and searching for something to eat.

Killdeer Chicks Grow Up Fast

Killdeer go from being newborns to teenagers in a short time.

Just-hatched chicks don’t run as gracefully as a gazelle and are a bit wobbly and clumsy on their long legs.

Killdeer chicks are bright-eyed, fluffy replicas of their parents
Killdeer chicks are bright-eyed, fluffy replicas of their parents

And seeing these endearing plovers is one of the delights of summer.

But we’re jumping ahead, like a killdeer chick.

Let’s talk more about these delightful birds before their chicks hatch.

Meet the Killdeer

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferous) are large plovers found in the Americas.

They’re slender lanky birds with long wings and a long, pointed tail.

The birds are brownish-tan on top and white below.

An adult’s white chest is barred with two black bands, and the brown face is marked with black and white patches.

Their bright orange-buff rump is conspicuous in flight.

Killdeer chicks are bright-eyed, fluffy replicas of their parents.

Killdeer have the characteristic large, round head, large eye, and short bill of all plovers, and are especially slender and lanky, with a long, pointed tail and long wings
Killdeer have the characteristic large, round head, large eye, and short bill of all plovers, and are especially slender and lanky, with a long, pointed tail and long wings

Beach Birds

Killdeer are shorebirds you can see without having to go to the beach.

You can find these birds on or close to open ground with low vegetation.

In places like lawns, golf courses, driveways, parking lots, gravel-covered roofs, pastures, fields, sandbars, and mudflats.

These birds prefer dry habitats and are one of the least water-associated of all shorebirds.

Although you see them on land, killdeer are proficient swimmers.

Adults swim well in swift-flowing water, and chicks can swim across small streams.

READ: PIPING PLOVERS WANT PEOPLE TO GET OFF THEIR LAWN

Name is Their Call

Their name is their call. Kill-deer.

And their scientific name, Charadrius vociferous, captures the intensity of their voice.

These chicks are quite vociferous.

Listen for far-carrying, excited kill-deer, a familiar sound even after dark, often when the bird circles overhead on its slender wings.

Listen to their call here, thanks to our friends at All About Birds.

Adult Killdeer lead humans away from their young with a broken-wing trick
Adult Killdeer lead humans away from their young with a broken-wing trick

Broken-wing Display

If you see an adult killdeer in gravel or on a dirt road, then you’ve probably fallen victim to a game they play with humans.

As you approach them, the bird suddenly develops a broken wing.

It struggles in front of you as if it can barely walk, dragging both of its wings on the ground.

We love birds, so it’s our instinct to rescue the killdeer.

As you get closer to the bird, it almost lets you pick it up, but the killdeer is one step ahead of you.

As you pursue the bird, as the killdeer slowly leads you farther and farther away from its chicks nesting on the ground or hiding under a bush.

When the bird feels its young are safe, the bird’s broken wing miraculously heals, and the adult flies away with a loud call, Kill-deer.

But for us, it sounds more like, “the joke is one you.”

Momma Killdeer on ground nest with two eggs visible
Momma Killdeer on ground nest with two eggs visible

Fiercely Protect Their Young

Don’t feel bad, we all fall for the killdeer’s broken wing trick.

The parent is just protecting its young.

If you look around for the adorable killdeer chicks you might find one running in the grass or hunkering down close to the ground near its mother.

Adult Killdeer with its adorable chick and yet to hatch egg
Adult Killdeer with its adorable chick and yet to hatch egg

Be careful not to step on its nest camouflaged by rocks and dirt.

We look forward to the summer here on the east coast and seeing these graceful plovers.

Just seeing a killdeer chick brings a smile to your face.

So put your running shoes on to keep up with them.

Killdeer were born to run.

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