The Killdeer, a Cute Gal Who Cleverly Defends Her Clutch
Another wild creature which loves Texas!
An Odd Name and Cunning; That's the Killdeer.
A friend who lives on a farm in a little village near Dallas, told me of some fascinating little birds with some unusual habits who live on the grasslands of the property. I thought she said they were called “Kildees,” on investigation I think the little creatures are “Killdeers,” although knocking off bucks and does are far from the Killdeers mind.
Someone familiar with avian anatomy might be surprised to find the creatures in the middle of Texas, as they are obviously wading birds who really belong in estuaries and mudflats. The part of Texas where my friend lives has a lot of small lakes and ponds which is why the Killdeer, in numbers, finds the place to its taste.
Their name is nothing to do with deer or killing, but approximates the sound the bird makes.
Killdeers have something in common with other meadowland nesters, such as the Skylark and Partridge. They employ the trick of appearing injured to any predator which approaches their nests, including humans who may be interested.
The female flaps around in the grass as if one wing is broken until the predator’s attention is drawn to her and not her eggs or young. This has been a matter of some distress to farmers driving agricultural equipment who think they have run over the bird.
If the predator continues towards the nest, ignoring the importuning of the mother, she will approach even nearer, insisting that, “Hey, you got a good meal here, you don’t want those boring eggs, or those scrawny little nestlings with no meat on them.” Once the fox, cat, or nosy stick-gatherer has been drawn far enough away, Ma Killdeer makes an instant recovery and flies off!
The bird will also spread its handsome fantail, screech and stand as if ready to fight to defend its nest if the intruder is unperturbed.
In point of fact, the hatched chicks don’t stay long in the rudimentary nest as they are “Precocial,” born fully feathered, and able to see and forage almost from the first moment.
The nests are not easy to find, even when you are right on top of them, as they are just a few small stones and some pieces of grass. Precocial birds don’t need complex, strong, weatherproof, nests, because the young leave home right away able to fend for themselves.
The eggs are brown spotted and resemble the stones of the fields around them.
Quite a handsome member of the wader family, the Killdeer is a coffee mocha of white and browns, with two black bands across the breast.
They are widespread in the Southern Us, Canada, up to Alaska, all across the south of United States and Peru. Those found in the colder climes will migrate during the winter to one of the Central American countries.
The Killdeer should find a place on the farmer’s list of friends, because their diet is mainly insects, most of which are harmful to crops or livestock.