Killdeer – The Noisy Plover

by Larry Jordan on August 2, 2009

killdeer, plover

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) photos by Larry Jordan

The Killdeer is appropriately named Charadius vociferus because of its very vocal nature.  As a matter of fact, it used to be known as the Noisy Plover by naturalists back in the 18th century.  Killdeer belong to the Plover familly of shorebirds but they are not always found near the shore, although they are usually near water.

killdeer, plover, shorebird

Does it look like I have eyes in the back of my head?

killdeer, plover, shorebird

Killdeer are rather conspicuous not only due to their noisy calls but they may be found on mudflats, gravel bars and short grass meadows where they run across the ground in spurts and then come to a screeching halt and bob their heads.  This is a great way to flush out insects and find earthworms, one of their primary foods.

I found this congregation of Killdeer along with a murder of crows (don’t you love the collective nouns used for birds) on this athletic field when I went back to Shasta College to observe my Western Kingbird family. The kingbirds had already left their nest tree, so I turned my attention to the killdeer and crows.

killdeer, plover, shorebird

As I was saying, Killdeer are the most widespread plover in North America and can be found almost anywhere there are large expanses of grass like pastures, golf courses and even lawns.  They were eating worms along with the crows on this particular afternoon.

One of the most conspicuous traits of the Killdeer is its "broken wing" act to lure predators away from their nest site.  Here is a short video of the "broken wing" trick followed by a photo of killdeer eggs sent to me by one of my readers from Illinois.  Thanks Lisa.  Enjoy!

killdeer eggs, killdeer nest

 To see more great bird photos, check out Bird Photography Weekly!  Maybe you should join in the fun too!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

bob k August 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Awesome photos, Larry! I love Killdeers! Those big eyes are just adorable and their loud calls are music to my slightly impaired ears.
.-= bob k´s last blog ..Tanager Angst =-.


Amber Coakley August 2, 2009 at 7:32 pm

I agree with bob k – Killdeers ARE adorable. I don’t think their call sounds anything like “kill-deer,” though. They are so fast – you did good to get these photos. I’ve photographed them a few times, but can never get close enough for a decent shot.
.-= Amber Coakley´s last blog ..ID Challenge – August, 2009 =-.


Larry August 2, 2009 at 8:59 pm

@Bob they are cute huh? I can relate to your impaired ears. We have to really listen hard when it comes to birding don’t we?

@Amber I don’t think their call sounds like “kill deer” either. I hear ya about getting close enough for a decent shot.

This day was really warm and I pulled up to this field slowly, where the Western Kingbird nest had been, and there they were, Killdeer and Crows.

They moved away but I setup my camera on a tripod and waited. Eventually, they wandered around and came within 20 feet of me.

I find that, if I have the time, I can setup and wait for the birds and many times, they come.


Kelly August 2, 2009 at 9:35 pm

I love Killdeer too. I got to see the broken-wing act this spring as well. I really like the eggs….I have never stumbled across a nest. They are pretty.
.-= Kelly´s last blog ..A homely little House Wren? (BPW #49) =-.


MaineBirder August 3, 2009 at 4:07 am

Excellent post Larry… love the photos and video!

I remember the first time, when I was a young fellow in Indiana, seeing the broken wing display. I thought what the heck!
.-= MaineBirder´s last blog ..BwBTC Photo of the Month Contest =-.


amber June 16, 2012 at 8:38 am

Is the killdeer common to the central nebraska region?? We were in ravenna nebraska for the annual celebration and camped next to a mother, father and 4 killdeer eggs…a beautiful and interesting bird we had never seen before and are curious on the lifestyle of the killdeer.


Larry June 16, 2012 at 10:58 pm

@Amber they pretty much breed everywhere in North America and I have seen more Killdeer this year than ever before in my area. Check out my latest post here:


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