Spot the killdeer!

August 13, 2014 • 9:09 am

by Matthew Cobb

This nightjar-less photo was sent in by photographer Peter Green, whose website is There’s a ground-nesting killdeer in here somewhere. In case you don’t know what a killdeer looks like, I’ve posted another pic by Peter which shows you what to look for. Answer tomorrow.


Here’s a killdeer (anybody any idea why they have that name? The obvious would seem to be unlikely):




27 thoughts on “Spot the killdeer!

  1. Isn’t the mame onomatopoeic? As a lapwing (a typ of plover which a killdeer also is) Vanellus vanellus – is also called a peewit after its call…

    1. Okay I’ll hazard a guess for you – it’s right by that small stone a little southwest of the pine on the right.

      1. That is where I thought it was. Straight up from the space between the R and G in Peter Green, amongst the cluster of objects that you mention.

      1. Yes, you need to learn the Killdeer’s language to properly pronounce it. They keep telling us, buy shouting it to us, but humans seem to daft to get it. 🙂

    2. I never heard one but if they sound a bit like the Masked Lapwing Vanellus miles that Steve Pinker photographed in Tassie, they’d be very loud and distinctive and screamy, and heard mostly at night.

  2. Much harder to spot would be the killdeer eggs nestled in the gravel. They look just like rounded little rocks.

    Add me to the list of those who think the call doesn’t sound like “killdeer.”

    Another onomatopoeically named bird is the phoebe. We have eastern phoebe (or two?) living somewhere near the front of my house, and it took me forever to ID it, but once I did the call is unmistakable.

    1. Here’s a killdeer “nest”.

      And here’s an adult defending it.

      They nested right next to where I park my truck, and I’d get the treatment every morning. The mated pair act like a tag team, with effective, broken-wing diversionary tactics. They raised all four. I saw whom I assume was mom and the four impossibly cute chicks throughout the summer as they grew like weeds, feeding on insects on the creek.

      Killdeer are notorious for nesting in dangerous places. They like gravel, which leads them to driveways and seldom used rural roads.

  3. Maybe it ends up rather often as roadkill, as nobody can see it in time?

    I think I found it though, but real life has no zoom button.

  4. I can’t see a thing on my small phone screen, but I do love these “spot the …” posts I think b/c they take me back to reading the kid mag Highlights and hunting for the hidden pictures.

  5. Killdeer are famous for their broken wing display.

    Having said that, now I can claim my next comment to be barely tangentially related to the subject rather than completely off-topic:
    Today I witnessed a chipping sparrow perform a broken wing display on a sidewalk.
    1/ I had no idea sparrows did this,
    2/ it seems awfully late in the season for it, no? I’m in NB, Canada.

  6. I think the call sounds quite a lot like “killdeer”. If you take a list of all English word pairs and a list of all bird calls, I think you would find it’s a better match than almost all other combinations. Even though it sounds more like “ka-dee” than “killdeer”.

    It’s certainly closer than white-eyed vireo is to “quick, gimme three beers quick” or eastern towhee to “drink your tea”.

    1. I like the way the Chiming Wedgebill (Psophodes occidentalis) is described in field guides as calling ‘Why did I get drunk?’

      (I sometimes call back ‘Because you’re an Australian endemic, you silly bastard!’ The call can get very annoying after a few hundred reps)

  7. Is it in the foreground of the tree on the right, just outside the leaf litter? I don’t know, I think if I were a predator, I’d starve. Camouflage is a very effective adaptation.

  8. I think I found the little guy. I thought they were so named because when nearly stepped on by a deer they fly up suddenly, startling said deer, which then dashes off over a cliff by accident.

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