Killdeer: Large banded plover, brown upperparts and white underparts, two distinct black bands cross upper breast. White stripes on wings are visible in flight. Tail and rump show rust-brown in flight. Black bill, pink-brown legs and feet. Wavering, erratic flight, capable of swift, direct flight.
Range and Habitat
Killdeer: Breeds from southern Alaska east across Canada to Newfoundland and southward. Spends winters north to British Columbia, Utah, the Ohio Valley, and Massachusetts; also found in South America. Preferred habitats include open areas such as plowed fields, golf courses, and short-grass prairies.
The taxonomic order CHARADRIIFORMES (pronounced kah-RAH-dree-ih-FOR-meez) is composed of waterbirds such as the auks, gulls, long-toed Jacanas, and the plovers.
In the plover family, Charadriidae (pronounced kar-ad-RYE-uh-dee), there are sixty-seven species in ten genera distributed nearly worldwide.
There are eighteen species of plovers in three genera in North America. Members of this family include the well- known Killdeer, the pale Piping Plover, and the golden-plovers.
The Killdeer is known for its distraction displays around its nest. Adult Killdeers noisily feign a broken wing to attract the attention of anyone or anything that comes too close to their nests.
Plovers are small birds with rounded, pigeon-like heads, long, pointed wings for fast flight, and except for the long-tailed Killdeer, short tails. They have fairly long legs with short toes and rather short bills.
Dull colors such as brown, gray, black, and white are the most frequent colors seen in plover plumages. Dark colors are usually found on the upperparts and white on the underparts with several species having black markings on the head and neck. Exceptions are the handsome breeding plumages of the Black-bellied Plover and golden-plovers (these show black on the underparts), and the Eurasian Dotterel with rufous underparts.
The plover family occurs throughout North America in non-forest habitats. The most common species, the Killdeer, occupies almost any sort of bare or sparsely vegetated ground from extensive lawns to parking lots and baseball fields. The Mountain Plover of the short grass prairie also prefers little vegetation but is much more particular in habitat choice and much less common. Other plover species occur in wet fields, beaches, mud flats, and salt pans.
Plovers are mostly long distance migrants that winter from the southern United States to Argentina in South America.
Plovers form pairs during the breeding season, but occur in flocks during migration and winter. At all times of the year, members of this family have a distinctive mode of foraging whereby they take a few quick steps, then pause to stoop and pick an insect from the ground.
The Piping Plover is considered to be near threatened as its populations have declined in much of its range because of disturbance and development of the beaches, sandy shorelines, and sand bars this species requires.
The Semipalmated Plover gets its name from having partially webbed feet, a feature this small bird makes use of by occasionally swimming in the water. The golden-plovers undertake incredible migrations; the Pacific Golden-Plover to Hawaii and other Pacific islands from its Alaskan breeding grounds, and the American Golden-Plover from the Arctic tundra to the pampas of Argentina.