Bird Identification – Killdeer

If you don’t know the little killdeer plover, it is surely not his fault, for he is a noisy sentinel, always ready, night or day, to tell you his name. Killdee, killdee, he calls with his high voice when alarmed—and he is usually beset by fears, real or imaginary—but when at peace, his voice is sweet and low. Much persecution from gunners has made the naturally gentle birds of the shore and marshes rather shy and wild. Most plovers nest in the Arctic regions, where man and his wicked ways are unknown. When the young birds reach our land of liberty and receive a welcome of hot shot, the survivors learn their first lesson in shyness. Some killdeer, however, are hatched in the United States. No sportsman worthy the name would waste shot on a bird not larger than a robin; one, moreover, with musky flesh; yet I have seen scores of killdeer strung over the backs of gunners in tide-water Virginia. Their larger cousins, the black-breasted, the piping, the golden and Wilson’s plovers, who travel from the tundras of the far North to South America and back again every year, have now become rare because too much cooked along their long route. You can usually tell a flock of plovers in flight by the crescent shape of the rapidly moving mass.

With a busy company of friends, the killdeer haunts broad tracts of grassy land, near water-uplands or lowlands, or marshy meadows beside the sea. Scattered over a chosen feeding ground, the plovers run about nimbly, nervously, looking for trouble as well as food. Because worms, which are their favourite supper, come out of the ground at nightfall, the birds are especially active then. Grasshoppers, crickets, and other insects content them during the day.