Everything You Need to Know About a Killdeer Bird

Updated: Dec. 01, 2023

Learn how to identify a killdeer bird. Discover what the birds look like and get facts about their nests, eggs, songs and more.

What Does a Killdeer Look Like?

Roland Jordahl

A killdeer is a type of shorebird that often lives far away from the shore. To identify a killdeer, look for distinctive markings. They have a brown back, white neck ring, two black bands across a white breast and a long tail with an orange rump that shows only in flight or display. The adults measure 10-1/2 inches in length with a wingspan of 24 inches.

Quiz: How many shorebirds can you identify?

Killdeer Bird Facts

  • Scientific Name: Charadrius vociferus
  • Common name: Killdeer
  • Family: Plover

Nest and Eggs

251542435 1 Martin Torres Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Martin Torres
Killdeer at nest with eggs

This bird does not make a nest. Four eggs, heavily marked with brown spots, scrawls and blotches, are placed on open ground, where they blend in with the surroundings. To attract them to your backyard, offer a protected gravel area where it can lay its eggs. It takes more than three weeks for killdeer eggs to hatch.

When something approaches its nest, the killdeer spreads its wings and tail, scolds and may even fly at it. If a potential predator comes very near, the bird tries to lure it away from the nest by playing wounded. Either parent may put on a broken-wing act, fluttering away as if injured.

“I was respectful and patient while I got close to this killdeer (above) by crawling on my belly to get the photo. The bird never cried out or flew away. I was also very careful to not disturb the bird when leaving. I used my Nikon D750 and a Nikkor 70-200 mm lens,” says reader Martin Torres.

Backyard Tip: If you find a bird’s nest on the ground in a high traffic area, put up a sign or flags to warn others not to disturb it.

Discover America’s smartest bird species.

What Does a Killdeer Eat?

killdeerCourtesy Timothy Miller
These birds nest on open ground

These birds do not visit bird feeders. They primarily eat insects, and occasionally earthworms, crayfish and weed seeds.

Killdeer Song

Listen to their song. Their voice is a noisy call of “kill-dee” and repeats “dee-dee-dee.”

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Learn all about wading birds.

Range Map and Habitat

kildeer Albert Myran 001Courtesy Albert Myran
Chick at Peaceful Valley Ranch in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Look for these birds on lawns, cemeteries, parking lots, golf courses and cultivated fields, usually away from water.

Killdeer Bird Species

Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

Next, check out 20 black and white birds you might see.