The Killdeer is a common type of Plover found all across Southern Ontario and although this is a shore bird, it is also found nesting in fields, gravel driveways and lawns.
These are handsome birds, measuring around 25cm from beak to tail and weighing in at 100 g and although it is about the same size as a Robin, it has longer legs and two black bands across its white chest, an orange-coloured lower back, rump, and tail.
The Killdeer gets both its common name from its call, "Killdeah, Killdeah" is repeated by both the male and female, especially in Spring and early Summer.
Although classified as a shorebird, it is frequently found far away from water as it nests many open spaces including fields & pastures, favouring golf courses and airfields.
The eggs of this bird blend well with their background of earth, pebbles, or stones as they are speckled and hard to see. If a predator does see the eggs or young, the parent's leap into action and show their most famous display.
There are two distinct tactics used by the parent Killdeers - the first is used against any animal who is accidentally approaching the nest - this is where the adult bird stretch out their wings and fly toward the intruder with the hope of discouraging their approach.
The second tactic is employed against predators and those who are deliberately approaching the nest and young - the adult bird first flies around the intruder, hoping perhaps to scare them away, however, if this is unsuccessful, they begin their "bird with a broken wing" act! As they give a wonderful performance of a bird flapping helplessly on the ground, as if unable to fly, the bird lures the intruder farther and farther away from the nest.
As soon as a safe distance has been reached, the parent bird miraculously recovers and flies off, leaving the perplexed predator wondering what happened to his easy meal!
Last summer I was visiting a nearby cemetery when I came across a pair of Killdeer who began showing me their Oscar winning performance. I realized that I must have been near their nest and looked carefully around me - and sure enough, there was a cleverly camouflaged nest with four speckled eggs in it.
I slowly walked away without disturbing them and the birds resumed their task of incubating the eggs
This bird is common across most of Canada, from Newfoundland and Labrador across to northern British Columbia and up to southern Alaska, however, because it nests in clearings, it is absent from forested areas.
They migrate and spend the winters in Northern South America, returning northward in mid-March.
Their diet includes insects such as beetles, weevils, June beetle larvae, wire-worms and brown fruit beetles - insects, such as grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants, dragon flies, and also worms, snails and spiders.
There are usually three or four beige, mottled, pear-shaped eggs in a nest, often laid in early April which are incubated for around 25 days. The young watch the parents and quickly learn to feed themselves, as their parents do not do this, and by 40 days after hatching, the young birds are fledged and ready to fly.
Birdwatching.com - the Killdeer
Information and photographs of these interesting birds - le pluvier
Here is a wonderful short video, courtesy of Youtube and Carol Wright, which shows typical Killdeer behaviour.
© Bob Balestri
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