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The Killdeer, a Cute Gal Who Cleverly Defends Her Clutch

Updated on June 2, 2012

Another wild creature which loves Texas!

A clutch of well camouflaged Killdeer eggs.
A clutch of well camouflaged Killdeer eggs.
Mama Killdeer, bless her, employing the broken wing and distressed screech trick.
Mama Killdeer, bless her, employing the broken wing and distressed screech trick.

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.

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    • profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago

      Thanks to all my friends for their kind remarks

      Bob

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Wonderful hub. Brave, and protective mother bird. God Bless You, and the killdeer.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great Hub. Have heard of the Killdeer but have never come across one. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted awesome and up. Very nicely done!

    • cathylynn99 profile image

      cathylynn99 5 years ago from northeastern US

      killdeer are endangered in the US. i felt lucky to see some on an outing to a local lake.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      They look like they're related to plovers which pull the same trick in the UK. I was interested (but slightly disappointed) to read about how they got their name - I'd hoped it was going to be some great old wives tale about how they killed deer somehow!

    • Theophanes profile image

      Theophanes 5 years ago from New England

      I saw a killdeer for the first time last summer when I was traveling through the states. I asked someone what kind of bird it was and he said rather dryly, "Oh its just a killdeer." The name caught me off guard and I really didn't know what to say next. I just stared at it flying off and wondered. Guess you answered that question! Lovely hub.

    • moonfroth profile image

      Clark Cook 5 years ago from Rural BC (Canada) & N of Puerto Vallarta (Mexico)

      I too have seen the killdeer mama's pull this trick. Lovely Hub, Bob. Glad you're finished moving, an activity we all hate with a passion!

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Will. I have missed the Wolf lately as was moving all this week and have been mostly away from HP. I will ammend this as they pop up in my inbox...here's howlin' at ya!

      Bob

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Misty. Thanks for that info and I'll pass it on to the friend

      Bob

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      As an Iowa farm boy, I saw this trick all the time, and found a few nests by watching what mamma did! I think they were surprised that all I did was look.

      (Are you still reading 'The wolf'? I miss your comments!)

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 5 years ago from North Texas

      Guess you must be all moved and ready to get back to work. Interesting hub.

      There are killdeers in WI and likely anywhere here in the states where there are marshes.

      The Dallas area has a lot of large lakes (not just small lakes and ponds) and there are lots of marshes in this area as well. Expect you didn't understand your friend when she said killdeer because of the TX accent. You can hear the bird calls by going to this URL -- hope you like:

      http://www.birdjam.com/birdsong.php?id=18

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