Antoinette Franke, Consolidated Cooperative
Q. Hi, Chip: A farmer owns a field next to our property. In late February, killdeer arrived as they usually do every year, but they only stayed two weeks. Now there are no killdeer! What happened? In past years, they always used that field. I hope they didn’t die during the cold, wet spring we experienced.
A. Hi, Antoinette: I have a couple thoughts concerning your killdeer. Possibly, the birds that arrived early were migrants and simply moved on after pausing to feed and rest for a time. Or, has the habitat in the field you described changed significantly compared to past years? Killdeer require nearly bare ground on which to nest, little more than a scrape in the dirt or gravel. See my accompanying photo of a killdeer at a nest.
They are also famous for their “broken-wing” act. While crying loudly, they attempt to draw a would-be predator away from their nest (usually containing four well-camouflaged eggs) by dragging a wing and stumbling about as if they’re injured. Killdeer get their name from the loud call they make: kill-dee, kill-dee, kill-deer. Male and female are similar in appearance.