Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)


[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Charadriidae | [latin] Charadrius vociferus | [UK] Killdeer | [FR] Pluvier kildir | [DE] Keilschwanz-Regenpfeifer | [ES] | [NL] Killdeerplevier


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Charadrius vociferus NA, LA Alaska and c Canada to Peru
Charadrius vociferus peruvianus Peru, nw Chile
Charadrius vociferus ternominatus Bahamas, Greater Antilles
Charadrius vociferus vociferus Canada, USA, Mexico to nw South America

Physical charateristics

Adult killdeer reach a length ranging between 23-27cm, with an average wingspan of 17.5 cm. Distinguishing characteristics include a dark, double-banded breast, with the top band completely encircling the upper body/breast. Another band is located at the head, resembling a mask absent of the facial portion. The band is continuous, thinning while going across the face along the forehead region and above the bill, and thickening at the supercilium; extending around the eye and onward around the back of the head. Plumage is relatively absent of complexity with the exception of a vividly colored, reddish-orange rump that is visible during flight and behavioral displays. The rest the body consists of a grayish-brown coloration along the dorsal side, crown and nape, while the ventral region is white. Characteristic of species in the same order, C. vociferus possess a lengthened tarsus and a pointed, extended bill, suitable for its foraging habits.
Male and female killdeer are similar in appearance, though breeding females may have additional brown on their face. Juvenile killdeer are similar in appearance to adults, with the exception of buffed fringes and the (uncommon) presence of tail-down.

Listen to the sound of Killdeer


Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 17 cm wingspan max.: 18 cm
size min.: 23 cm size max.: 27 cm
incubation min.: 24 days incubation max.: 28 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 28 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 6  


North America, Latin America : Alaska and Central Canada to Peru


Killdeer live in terrestrial biomes including savannas, taiga and deciduous forest regions, preferring open areas within these biomes, especially sandbars, mudflats and pastures. Their preferred topographical features range greatly (shorelines, savannas, high altitude regions), with temperature being the critical factor of environment choice. With its large year-round distribution range (and as a result, a small wintering range), C. vociferus remain within their habitats year-round, migrating only when temperature becomes extremely cold, which for the killdeer, is approximately 10 degrees Celsius and below. Killdeer are highly adaptive to climate and environmental variations, and as a consequence, have effectively settled into human altered environments including parks and agricultural zones.


Killdeer are monogamous. Breeding pairs form on the breeding grounds in the spring. Male killdeer claim a territory in which to nest, and then attempt to attract a mate using aerial displays and a series of two-noted calls. Non-migratory breeding pairs may remain together year-round, and may breed together for several years.
Killdeer usually begin breeding in early spring, depending on their location. Nesting may begin as early as March in the southern United States, to as late as June in central Canada. In the Caribbean, killdeer can nest year-round. In most temperate localities, killdeer may lay up to three broods per season, but most often only raise one brood successfully. However, in the southern part of their range, successful hatching of two broods may be common.
The male and female work together to “build” their nest, which is simply a depression scraped into the bare earth, or other substrate. Nests are typically located in open areas with sparse vegetation, often in farm fields, road shoulders, parking lots and flat graveled rooftops. Females lay an average clutch of 4 eggs, though the clutch may be as few as 2 eggs and as many as 6. Eggs are incubated for 24 to 28 days, with both parents performing this duty. The chicks are precocial at hatching; they are down-covered and active, and are able to leave the nest soon after their down dries. Unlike most birds, killdeers do not feed their chicks in the nest. Soon after hatching, the parents lead the chicks to a feeding area. The chicks remain with the parents until they are able to fly, 20 to 31 days after hatching. They are able to breed the next year.

Feeding habits

Charadrius vociferus can be considered omnivorous since berries are known to be included within the diet. Primarily though, the diet consists of various aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, insects and crustaceans.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Killdeer status Least Concern


Races ternominatus and peruvianus believed to be resident. Nominate migratory: winters from S of breeding range S to Central America, West Indies, Colombia, Ecuador and Islands off Venezuela; departs breeding grounds from mid-Jul and gathers in flocks in wet valleys, along rivers and on coast; migration from late Aug to Nov, with peak in late Sept; files along coast, but also in broad front over land; reaches S USA in Oct, some remaining till late Mar; returns to N & NE USA by Mar to early Apr. Late autumn storms may carry vagrants up Atlantic coast; possible cause of W European vagrants turning up Nov-Apr. Migrates at night.

Distribution map

Killdeer distribution range map

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