This shorebird species is unique in that they spend more time away from water than any other shorebird. They can be seen in southern British Columbia year-round, and about 400 Killdeer migrate from their northern dwellings to overwinter in the Fraser River Delta each year. Killdeer are a large plover, comparable in size to an American Robin with longer legs and wings. They have large black eyes, two distinct black bands across their breast over a white chest, and a rusty brown back, cap, and face.
Killdeer can often be seen moving across the ground in quick spurts, stopping every few seconds to look behind themselves, presumably to see if they have turned up any worthy snacks. They let out high-pitched pips and peeps which sound like “kill deer,”, hence their unique name. They are also sensational actors, pulling the broken-wing distress act when they fear their nest is close to being discovered by a hungry predator.
Photo by Andrew Reding
To prevent large-hoofed animals from accidently stomping on their nests, they will fluff themselves up and flaunt their tails high above their head, sometimes running or flying straight at their challenger to deter it.
As soon as their young are born and their down dry, the chicks scurry about to begin foraging. Though the parents do not feed their young much, they keep a close watch on all four of their babies to make sure they are not disturbed.
Killdeer spend much of their day foraging on recently fertilized or Laser Levelled agricultural fields in the lower mainland. They are beneficial to farmers because they eat agricultural pests including brown fruit beetles, clover root and alfalfa weevils, and wireworm. They also enjoy the taste of mosquitoes and ticks, something many people would enjoy having fewer of.
Today, Killdeer populations are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1917 and are stable. In fact, there may be more present now than ever due to their protection as well as the additional habitat provided by agricultural development.