By Jim Gain
Beautiful Birds of the Sierra Nevada – Blog Post #4
- Scientific Name: Charadrius vociferus
- Family: Charadriidae
- Conservation Status: IUCN Red List species of “Least Concern”
- Occurrence, Residency and Breeding Status: Killdeer is a uncommon year-round resident and locally uncommon breeder
- Favored Biotic Zone(s): wet meadows, mudflats, and margins of ponds
ABOUT THIS SPECIES
The Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is an uncommon year-round resident that is more frequently found in Lower and Upper Montane biotic zones usually not far from water. It is a species of bird belonging to the plover family, Charadriidae.
The Killdeer is a medium-sized shorebird with a distinctive appearance. It measures around 23-28 centimeters in length and has a wingspan of approximately 46-48 centimeters. Its plumage is primarily brownish-tan with bold black and white patterns on the upperparts and face, including two black bands across its breast. It has a long, thin black bill and pink legs. The species is known for its loud, shrill call, often described as its name, “kill-deer.”
Killdeer are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of invertebrates such as insects, worms, crustaceans, and mollusks. They forage in open areas, including meadows, fields, agricultural lands, and shorelines. In the Sierra Nevada, they can be found in a range of habitats, including grasslands, wet meadows, lake edges, and even in suburban areas near water bodies.
Killdeers are ground-nesting birds and create their nests in open, gravelly areas with minimal vegetation, such as riverbanks, shores, gravel bars, or even parking lots. Their nests are shallow depressions in the ground, lined with small rocks, twigs, or grass. One interesting behavior of the Killdeer is its “broken-wing” display, where it feigns injury to distract potential predators away from the nest or young. This behavior is a clever tactic to lead predators away from the vulnerable nest or chicks.
The Killdeer has a wide range and a stable population, and it is not currently considered a species of concern. It is listed as a species of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, like many bird species, it can face threats from habitat loss, pollution, and predation. Conserving and protecting its preferred habitats, such as wet meadows and grasslands, is crucial for the continued well-being of the Killdeer and other avian species in the Sierra Nevada and beyond.
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