Bird of the Month: Killdeer

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By Doug Iverson

The Killdeer (Charadrius Vociferous) is a relatively easy bird to identify — especially when it moves! It’s found in open areas, generally in agricultural fields and near the shoreline at Willow Lake here in Prescott — especially in the winter and spring — but they occur all year.

Killdeer belong to the plover family. While chicks only have one black breast band, adults are distinguished by having two black bands and a distinct reddish-orange ring around a large black eye. The underside is completely white except for those two black bands. Killdeer have a loud, high-pitched, piercing kill-dee, kill-deer, dee-dee-dee call, heard both night and day, uttered repeatedly.

Killdeer place eggs in a shallow depression on the ground. Eggs are difficult for predators to see due to a broken color pattern that mimics the ground surface. Hatchlings can forage with adults as soon as their downy feathers dry (precocial). If these defenses are insufficient, the Killdeer parent will use a distraction display, such as feigning injury by dragging a wing across the ground, limping, or flattening its tail, drawing a predator away from the nest, as is shown in the photograph above. Male and female parents raise the young and have even been observed flying in the face of would-be poachers. They react quickly and vociferously to any perceived threat.

Killdeer often nest where they winter — as is the case for some birds in Prescott — while other individuals are early migrants to northern states, and as far north as the edge of the tundra in Canada. They are a common species, may be found distant from water, and don’t often associate with other shore birds.

Killdeer have a stable population partly because they adapt well to human encroachment and development. They are definitely a bird that can be enjoyed locally, especially on the south shore of Willow Lake.

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Visit Prescott Audubon Society at PrescottAudubon.Org. Contact them at Contact@PrescottAudubon.Org.

Doug Iverson, a retired English teacher, is secretary of the Prescott Audubon Society as well as a board member.

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