Today’s winner of the photography challenge is the killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). I’d have missed seeing this guy if I hadn’t stopped to take the lens cap off the camera and wonder what race I was going to be dodging on my walk.
This plump plover is one of the few shorebirds that doesn’t need to be near a beach (though I’ve always noticed them around Boomer Lake).
Their diet is mainly insects (beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers), but will also eat spiders, earthworms, centipedes, snails, and will even “fish” for crayfish. They can be found in fields (which may or may not be near water), and will follow the farmers plowing the fields to eat the grubs that unearthed.
They usually have one brood a year (though in the south, it can be possibly two broods a year) that ranges from three to five young (average is four). Both parents will incubate the eggs, and this ranges almost a month (24 to 28 days). Depending on location, parents may soak in water before returning to the nest in order to help keep the eggs cool.
The young leave the nest within a day of hatching. While they stay with their parents, they are able to feed themselves. They are able to fly roughly three and a half weeks after hatching.
Some cool facts about killdeers include:
They got their name from their call, which is a shrill, wailing kill-deer. They are also known as the Chattering Plover & the Noisy Plover.
They use the broken-wing act to lead predators away from the nest. Though since they nest on the ground, they have to be weary of other animals potentially stepping on the nest—so they try to charge the larger animals to get them to change directions.
They are actually proficient swimmers (both adults and young).
Their nests are quite small and bare to begin with, but are added to after eggs are laid. There was one nest somewhere within Oklahoma, where people found over 1,500 pebbles adorning the nest.
They can live quite a long time—the oldest recorded Killdeer was at least 10 years & 11 months, when it was recaptured & then re-released in Kansas.