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Melissa Mayntz

Bird of the Week: Killdeer

By April 22, 2009

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This week’s featured bird, the killdeer, was one of the first birds I ever identified and it has remained a favorite of mine ever since. Bold coloration, distinct calls and perky, nervous behavior are characteristic of this species, but killdeers are also known for the cunning “fake injuries” they use to lure predators away from their nests. Now is the perfect time to spot that diversion, as killdeers are busy protecting their spring nests near lakes, rivers and open fields.

What killdeer behaviors have you observed? Share your experiences in the comments!

Photo © Clinton & Charles Robertson


April 23, 2009 at 2:47 pm
(1) Dennis Hewitt says:

I had been lucky enough to see/discover a killdeer nest in a small rocky area at a wharehouse in Billerica.The killdeer did not like that I discovered the nest and moved the eggs to another location.I left them alone and the babies were a delight to watch.

April 24, 2009 at 3:26 pm
(2) Dianne says:

I have a Killdeer nest in our yard. Any ideas about how not to kill them next time we mow the yard? We can avoid them now as they are eggs but once they hatch, wont they be running around the yard for a couple weeks until they can fly?
Our home is in Geogetown Kentucky in case you are curious of the location.

Any advice?


April 27, 2009 at 8:21 pm
(3) Florissa says:

Me Too! Please help, this beautiful bird has laid her eggs in my yard, and I do not want them to get run over by the lawn mower or attacked by dogs. Can someone give me a suggestion as to how to move the nest. I tried one time and she came back looking for them and couldn’t find them they were only a few feet away in some straw. Someone please help!

April 28, 2009 at 10:01 am
(4) Leesa says:

Can I put a pipe of some kind for the Killdeers to nest in? I live 8 miles from G-town,Ky.

April 28, 2009 at 11:26 am
(5) birding says:

Unfortunately, killdeers have the habit of building their nests in the open so they have good visibility to be on the alert for predators (they won’t normally or happily nest in a pipe or sheltered area). I wouldn’t recommend trying to move the nest — you could disrupt and injure the eggs or spook the nervous parents enough to abandon the nest.

The good news is that the young birds will pick up the nervous habits of their parents very, very quickly and they will likely keep out of the way of the lawn mower. The best way to handle a nearby nest is to just be very careful when mowing near it, and try to avoid mowing there as much as possible. The young birds will start flying in about three weeks, so you don’t have to worry about them for long.

Thanks for sharing!

April 30, 2009 at 9:02 pm
(6) Cathy says:

Just today I noticed two Killdeers in a shopping center parking lot. They have apparently nested at the empty end (no cars) in a long 5-foot wide strip of dirt/rock/mulch bordered by curb. It was near dark when I saw them on the ground. When I came out of the store I drove over but didn’t see them, so I got out of the car assuming they would appear to defend their nests. They did not. Do the birds assume the eggs are safe under cover of darkness? And, if so, where do the adult birds sleep/overnight?

May 10, 2009 at 7:19 pm
(7) gerry says:

I grew up in rural Minnesota. I loved waking up to the sounds of birds. I recall, and I am not sure if I have this correct, the first bird song was of the meadowlark, then the morning doves and finally the killdeer…..then I knew it was time to get up.

May 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm
(8) Missi says:

There is a nest behind my business. May 9 there were 2 eggs, May 10 there were 3. Today there are only 2 again and the adult birds are gone. Any idea what happened? Sureley one egg didn’t hatch that fast. Why would mom and dad just leave the other eggs?

May 22, 2009 at 3:11 pm
(9) Holly Tartaglia says:

We just rescued a baby killdeer out of a storm water drain! We weren’t sure if they were territorial to the point that some of the other killdeer parents would kill it (I ‘ve seen mockingbirds do this!). We left him in the vicinity where we found him (safely away from the drain and the road) and we hope that his parents will find him. Any advice?

May 30, 2009 at 3:31 pm
(10) Alex says:

This morning on the way to work I saw what I thought were sandpipers running around the dirt part of my driveway… Three baby Killdeer!

When I got back this afternoon they were still there, generally being adorable as possible. It’s been so nice to learn more about these birds and I feel so lucky they’re growing up in my yard! :)

http://www.birdwatching.com/stories/killdeer.html was really helpful to me.

June 7, 2009 at 12:29 am
(11) Rick says:

I live in Western Oregon. Are Killdeer endandered or scarce? Something destroyed a nest near my yard after about a week of the eggs being laid. Bummed me out because I had been taking pictures of it everyday!

June 9, 2009 at 9:21 pm
(12) Gail says:

I had discovered a bird in my back yard about a week ago. It kept chirping loudly and would run away as if its wing was messed up and he couldn’t fly. Then later I discovered the 4 eggs lying in the middle of my back yard. I asked around to learn what type bird and discovered the cute killdeer. From my calculations, the eggs should hatch sometime end of June; then I hope to have the pleasure of seeing the cute baby birds. I have to be very careful not to mow over the eggs and it’s leaving an area where my grass will be higher. This is only difficult because I have my house up for sale, but we’ll have to explain the unkempt portion of the yard to any potential house viewers. I’m glad to get to experience this and will begin taking photos.

June 16, 2009 at 7:09 pm
(13) Kim says:

A few years back, we had a stone driveway and a Killdeer made their nest in the middle of the drive way. I put up an orange cone at each end (approx 10′ from the nest on each side) and we drove around it. It was the most amazing couple weeks.

June 24, 2009 at 10:24 am
(14) Gary says:

This is more of a question on Killdeer hatching. I am not sure where to find the answer. We live in Tennessee and have a lot of rocks in the yard and a gravel drive. Killdeers love us. we have several around all the time. Last year they laid their eggs on the edge of the drive and we put reflectors around them to keep from hitting them. This year they built in our back yard. We put more rocks around the nest and she continued laying in the same nest and has been protecting it. There were 4 or 5 eggs in there this weekend but now everything is gone. We noticed that with those in the driveway last year too. I read where the chicks can run away the first day but what happened to the egg shells? We never know if the birds discard them or if something ate them. Any insight? Thanks Gary

August 1, 2009 at 3:43 pm
(15) ginley says:

These birds though beautiful, are a real pain in the but as far as noise. Do they ever sleep? 2 or 3 in the morning you can hear them everywhere….

November 7, 2009 at 1:32 pm
(16) sheryl says:

i love the killdeer!!!!!!!!!!!

April 24, 2010 at 10:56 am
(17) Darlene says:

I just started getting interested in these birds. We have a lake nearby and I recently saw a couple of males battling it out for a nest site. I thought it was funny that the birds would pretend to make a nest whenever the other one stopped moving. It was like saying “I have my nest here, go find somewhere else to put yours”. They were doing this as well as attacking each other for hours.

May 11, 2010 at 6:52 am
(18) ch says:

help what type of nest do they nest in ???

April 30, 2011 at 7:17 pm
(19) benny faw says:

i spoted a kildeer while while driving along side a driveway, acted like it was nesting in the gravel dr, pulled in to take look saw the orange on it’s back that lead me to recognoze the bird in my bird book
beautiful bird i am fro NC

May 19, 2011 at 5:07 pm
(20) Judy Dicks says:

i just spotted 2 killdeers on my front lawn in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada. Found them fascinating to watch. It was the first time I’ve ever seen them here. Mine were grey and white with the black neck ring I don’t know if they’re common to my area or not. Maybe someone else may have seen them too.

June 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm
(21) Linda says:

I have a killdeer bird that has laid its eggs in a rocky area (RV pad) around my house. My sister noticed it this weekend. This is in Manson, WA which is a city located on Lake Chelan. Hopefully no one drives over them. Can’t wait for the young to appear. My sister tried to build up rocks around to protect them, but mommy wouldn’t allow it. They are a pretty bird!

June 2, 2011 at 10:21 am
(22) Erica says:

Help! I have a Killdeer nest in my front yard. My husband and I just built our new house and have not had our landscaping done. It’s a rocky environment and we have enjoyed watching this Killdeer couple watch over their precious nest. Only problem is our landscapers are due to arrive tomorrow morning to start grading our yard. Their nest will be destroyed! Does anyone have any tips for how I can relocate this nest safely and not risk the parents leaving their young? Feel so bad about this, but I can’t delay the landscapers from coming.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Erica from Wisconsin

June 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm
(23) Brenda says:

This week is the second hatching for the same pair of killdeer. The first hatching was the end of April (early this year) with four little ones. Mama and Papa came back 3 weeks later with only 1 of the prior hatchlings. We named him Junior. Loved watching him nesting close to his mother in the evenings or during the day. Junior stayed with Mom and Dad till the new siblings arrived and we haven’t seen him since. The birds build their nest in our gravel driveway so we always put a sawhorse in front to protect it. Had a few days of 90 degree heat so we would park our truck sideways in front of the nest to help shade the birds from the sun. The second hatching has only produced 2 fledglings. Today held some excitement when a hawk landed in one of our trees. My husband scared the hawk away and Mama brought the babies back to her old nest as though she knew they would be safe while we were outside to protect them.

Brenda from West Virginia

July 4, 2012 at 8:20 pm
(24) Lou Ann says:

We have many killdeer in Fremont, NE. I first noticed them in the early 90′s when we would take our dogs for a walk through the collage campus. The would dive the dogs. I didn’t know what they were at that time.
Our church is on the edge of town and I often see them running across the parking lot in the evenings if there are not too many people around again not knowing what they were. They appeared to me to be some sort of sand piper.
The last two years there has been one that was nesting on the grounds where I work. This bird would run around near the windows making that crazy chirp and then from time to time would plop on the ground and spread it’s wings showing its rust colored feathers underneath. I assumed it was a mating dance of some sort, but after reading these posts I realize they were mowing the grass on that day and it must have been trying to draw the mowers away from it’s nest.

August 11, 2012 at 11:26 pm
(25) lily says:

we were recently mowing my lawn with a ride em lawn mower when i noticed a killdeer bird wandering around, to me it looked as tho she or he was looking for something. We stopped the lawn mower to observe and decided to give her some space to wander around. I was worried because i figured there might have been a nest somewhere. It has been a couple hours and she is still outside wandering the lawn, and its a pretty big area, making a chirping noise. Is she looking, and how long will she look for? When do they lay eggs, when do they hatch? How long will she look for? Will she mourn? I feel terrible!!

May 6, 2013 at 3:45 pm
(26) Debbie says:

Killdeer birds carry the open eggshell away from the nest (to protect the babies). We had a bird that laid 4 eggs (the norm). They started hatching on Friday (5/3/13). I saw her start the process of carrying the shells away, as they were hatching. How fun to watch. Two days later, the babies were already walking & looking for food .. on momma birds command. She also would call out a warning (danger), and the babies got still & didn’t move .. untill she let them know it was safe. Nature .. what a joy to watch!

May 7, 2013 at 6:20 pm
(27) Madison says:

I picked up a bird egg and didnt know it was a killdeer egg. And I’m taking care of it and if it hatches do I just let it go or do I take care of it or what? Or should I keep it outside or somthing I need help please.

May 8, 2013 at 12:26 am
(28) Debbie Viska says:

We have a nest of Killdeer, with two eggs, in our front yard. How long does it take for the eggs to hatch. They are in our rock garden/ flower bed & are very close to the sidewalk that goes to the front door. Will they abandon the nest if there is to much foot traffic? We are worried about people coming over & distrubing them. With Mother ‘s Day coming up we will have family over.
Thank you, Debbie

May 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm
(29) Toni, Eastern NC says:

We had a Killdeer nest right up against our fence in the backyard. My husband first noticed it when mowing, that’s when he saw the 4 eggs and continued to avoid the nest when mowing. This past Saturday, May 25th, I walked over to check on the eggs, after checking on them a couple of days earlier, and there was 4 baby birds! I did find part of an egg shell about 100yards away. But, the next day the babies were gone!! I was heartbroken, thinking an animal had gotten them. However I did read that within a day or so they will leave the nest, but they’ve not returned. The parents aren’t even around anymore. My son had also seen another nest on a neighbors property and told me today that there’s nothing there anymore either. I was under the impression that they would return to the nest until they could fly, does anyone know?

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