Killdeer With Their Young

by Larry Jordan on May 9, 2010

Killdeer Chick photos by Larry Jordan

A friend of mine told me he had seen some Killdeer chicks near a lot where he feeds the wild birds.  Having never seen a Killdeer chick, I went out to investigate.

I followed his directions to a quiet, two block long, graveled side street in town.  A perfect spot for these plovers to breed.  As I walked down the deserted gravel road I spotted an adult Killdeer doing its “broken wing” act before I ever saw the young ones.

The adults perform this little show to draw predators away from the youngsters and give them a chance to escape.  Here’s a shot of one of the adults after finishing its show and realizing I was only there to observe.

I get many emails this time of year from people who find the Killdeer eggs and want to know what bird laid them.  This a photo of their “nest” from Lisa who inquired about some eggs she found mowing their lawn last year.

They typically lay four eggs that are arranged with the pointed ends toward the middle of the nest.  When the nest is located in a gravelly area, they are nearly impossible to detect, blending in so well with the surrounding stones.

After watching the broken wing act, the other adult Killdeer flew in from somewhere and that’s when I saw the chicks.  There were three of them, so well camouflaged that I didn’t see them until they moved.

And when they move, they move!  These very cute little chicks act exactly like the adults.  They run, then stop abruptly, stand still and bob their heads.  Even the adults are usually so well camouflaged that you hear their loud calls before seeing them.[audio:https://thebirdersreport.com/audio/KILL.mp3] Audio courtesy of  Taylor Brooks, audio found at Xeno-Canto.org

This is what the little fluff balls look like from the tail end as they scurry away to forage for worms and insects.  They leave the nest as soon as their down dries after hatching.  And here is a photo of the adult with the speeding chick in the background just to get an idea of the size of the chicks.

To see more great bird photos, go to Bird Photography Weekly!  Wanna join the fun, submit your own bird photos and share!

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Faye May 9, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Very interesting. Great photos.

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OpposableChums May 10, 2010 at 6:24 am

Excellent video, and an impossibly cute little chick. Thanks for posting.

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Amy May 10, 2010 at 8:00 am

Great series of pictures. Killdeer were one of my favorite birds as a child, I was fascinated when my dad explained the broken-wing routine to me. Still love ’em. 🙂
.-= Amy´s last blog ..Bank Swallow colony =-.

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Mick May 10, 2010 at 10:18 am

Very cute chicks and lovely photos – another bird we don’t get out here.
.-= Mick´s last blog ..Crested Terns =-.

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Amber Coakley May 10, 2010 at 6:30 pm

I’ve always heard of the “broken wing” display, but have never seen it. This video is awesome! Larry, I just love the videos you’ve been posting. Agree with OpposableChums – impossibly cute for sure!
.-= Amber Coakley´s last blog ..Frog Finds =-.

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Medo Joe May 11, 2010 at 12:28 am

Oh this birdy’s egg is really unique at least for me lol. How do we “easily” attract those? i guess it’s not even a relevant questions but it would be awesome to get that fellow in my garden 😀
.-= Medo Joe´s last blog ..Bird Cages | Small | Large | Wooden Bird Cages =-.

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Idaho_Birder May 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Ahh! Killdeer chicks are really cute. The Killdeer in my neighborhood are just now starting to nest. I look forwarding to capturing my own baby killdeer photos soon!
.-= Idaho_Birder´s last blog ..Idaho Birding Hotspots: Black’s Creek & Indian Creek =-.

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The Zen Birdfeeder May 11, 2010 at 3:44 pm

They are SO cute!!!
.-= The Zen Birdfeeder´s last blog ..Spring Migration First of the Year Report 2010-2 =-.

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MaineBirder May 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Awesome photo series Larry! Cute they are!
.-= MaineBirder´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday: Rear View Opsrey =-.

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Lana May 12, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Very sweet. I had a killdeer singing CONSTANTLY during 2 12-hour shifts (when I worked outdoors years ago.) Drove me absolutely batty. I’ve lost a lot of respect for killdeer since then, I must admit, but the chicks are always cute!
.-= Lana´s last blog ..Fontainebleau & Good News =-.

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NicoleB, Egypt May 13, 2010 at 7:31 am

Those are some cute chicks.
And I never heard of any bird pulling that act.
How amazing 😀
And cool for you to be there at the right time to see it!
.-= NicoleB, Egypt´s last blog ..Walk around the old sewers in Hadaba =-.

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Scott May 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

OK, I will second everyone else here on that cute chick. I showed my wife and not only is she jealous of the photo but I actually think she wants to cuddle with it.

We have a number of adults running around our neighborhood but I yet to see any chicks. A weekend activity I believe…
.-= Scott´s last blog ..KinderCare takes burrowing owls under their wing =-.

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NatureFooostep Fåglar/Birds May 17, 2010 at 1:01 pm

This chick is sooo cute. Good of you to go out and take a look. And show it to us. We have similar ones so next year I will try to find someone nesting so I can watch them too 🙂
.-= NatureFooostep Fåglar/Birds´s last blog ..Camargue dag 1 =-.

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Darlene June 11, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Very cute chicks! I’m always terrified that I will step on one because they are so camouflaged and they stay so still. The first time I ever saw them in my life, I almost stepped on some.

In my area, they are fighting over territories and mating. Unfortunately, the area that they lay eggs in is heavily used and tread upon (plus crows and other predators abound), so it’s a miracle that any actually hatch and make it to adulthood.
.-= Darlene´s last blog ..Get out of my territory! =-.

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Katie April 16, 2011 at 10:58 am

I found an egg and it was all by itself other eggs around it were squashed, gonna trying hatch it myself.. any ideas??

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Larry April 17, 2011 at 5:59 am

@Katie, regarding your question on hatching the egg you found, my advice is to not even try. It is practically impossible to hatch and rear a wild bird from an egg. Even if you could keep the egg at the correct temperature and humidity to hatch it, the bird won’t be able to survive without its parents teaching it how to find food and escape predators.

My advice in these situations is to simply let nature take its course. Killdeer parents may lay a second clutch, especially if the first one is destroyed, and raise a brood during this season to a successful end.

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Leona May 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Just wanted to say that this was very helpful info. I found a “nest” on the ground.. Not much of one tho.. and it has two eggs. I took a picture and looked online to compare. One of your pics matches it perfectly except the fact that there are only 2 instead of 4. And when we are out in the yard, we hear cries from across the road, so I guess it is the mama bird thinking we are going to mess with her babies.

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Angela March 12, 2012 at 5:40 pm

I’m hoping someone can help ASAP. I’m in the San Diego mountain region. We live on a lake with a dam. In the winter water is let out to prevent flooding. I found 3 eggs that look like Kindler’s/ I took them thinking they were turtle eggs and not wanting them to drown when the dam is blocked and the water rises in a couple weeks. Now that I know they are not turtle, I don’t want them to die. I feel terrible for disturbing this nest!

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Larry March 12, 2012 at 6:45 pm

@Angela all you can do is place the eggs back where you found them and let nature take its coarse. Many times Killdeer will lay a second clutch if the first one is lost.

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Dianne April 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Larry, Thanks for responding to my question. Since my mail to you , I did see the Mama Killdeer tending her future babies. You get an A+. Thanks again.

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Amylou May 31, 2015 at 1:25 pm

We had a nest on our driveway two weeks ago. 4 eggs in it and it was the first nest I’ve ever seen. However, living in Central Texas we have been inundated with rains and our pond overflowed. The eggs are now gone and I was wondering if anyone knows if a Killdeer will move their eggs as water is rising. Would appreciate any information. Thank you.

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Larry June 5, 2015 at 6:38 am

@Amylou as far as I know, Killdeer have no way to move their eggs. According to Birds of North America Online “Parental care is limited to guarding and incubating, shading, or wetting eggs.”

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