Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  Killdeer
 
 

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  Order Charadriiformes - Plovers, Sandpipers, Gulls, Terns, Auks
   Family Charadriidae - Lapwings and Plovers
      Subfamily Charadriinae - Typical Plovers

  Charadriiforms are a diverse group of shore and aquatic or wading or terrestrial birds. They include the sandgrouse, shore birds, gulls and terns, and alcids. The majority breed in the Northern Hemisphere.
   The Tree of Life includes shorebirds with the Ciconiiformes.
Plovers have a relatively short and inflated bill. Most live in open habitat near water. They find most of their food by sight, running - then pausing - and running again. They have large eyes and some forage at night. This group includes plovers, lapwings, and the dotterel. 
     
     
  Killdeer, Charadrius vociferus
 
Cornell     USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoL
        YEAR ROUND  - Common, breeds (few in summer) \ Uncommon
            FIELDS, PASTURES, FRESHWATER MARGINS (not on beach)
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   The Killdeer is a larger plover with two dark bands on the breast and an orange rump conspicuous in flight. The tail is long and banded by a black band with white tips to the tail feathers. They inhabit fields, lawns, river banks, mud flats and shores They are commonly active day and night during the breeding season and may be heard calling as they fly overhead.
Killdeer
     
Killdeer. Merritt Island NWR, FL
Photo by Ed Konrad
   
  RANGE: Killdeer breed broadly across North America from the central Eastern States west to Colorado and northwest to the Pacific and north to the limits of tree line (Alaska, Hudson Bay, the Maritimes). They winter from the central states south to northern South America and west to Chile. They are also found in the West Indies.
  BREEDING: Monogamous. Two broods common in more southern parts of their range.. Males build a scrape, often far from water. It may be lined with local material. Females lay 4 (3-5) eggs that are incubated by both parents for 24-28 days. On hot days, parents shade eggs during midday and may wet their belly feathers to cool the eggs. Young are precocial and leave the nest soon after hatching. They are able to fly after 25 days. Both parents care for them.
   Males, in particular, tend to return to the same nest site. Killdeer (and many other plovers) distract potential predators with a conspicuous "broken-wing" display.
  DIET: Killdeer feed on insects, invertebrates, and some weed seeds. The most successful breeding areas have some water or other feeding area for the young. Killdeer often feed at night as well as during the day.
  VOICE: Their call is characteristic. Killdeer are common on or flying over open fields in the interior of the island but not on the beach. Listen for them day and night.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook (breeds). Kiawah - common resident (breeds). Edisto - resident.
      Coastal - common permanent resident. Hilton Head - common permanent resident.
         Cape Romain
- occasional/rare (breeds)/common/common. Huntington Beach - rare May; uncommon June - April.
      Caw Caw - common year-round, breeds. ACE - common/occasional (breeds)/common/common.
   CBC: ACE 39, 104, 39, 79, 18, 54, 22, 95; Charleston 57, 61, 30, 20, 2, 31, 48, 61;
            St, Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 7, 11; Hilton Head 49, 61, 64, 35, 34, 27, 88, 154; Sun City/Okatie 12, 38, 19, 32, 40, 22, 20, 40;
            McClellanville 67, 19, 23, 10, nc, 5, 19, 58; Winyah Bay x, x, 10, 52, 12. 50, 6, 115; Litchfield/Pawley's 28, 64, 25, 8, 9, 46, 18, 68.
   SCBBA: Breeding records in most counties.
   P&G: Common winter visitor, uncommon breeder.
   Potter: Common permanent resident (less numerous during the breeding season).
  ●  Relatively common (but local). Killdeer are widespread on open fields, golf courses, farmland, etc. They announce themselves with loud calls "kill deer." They may also be heard flying overhead, day or night. They are frequently seen on Seabrook at the Equestrian Center and fields near Freshfields. In 2009-10, 40 or more frequented the marshes near Duneloft. I have seen one in the western delta of the North Beach lagoon and another on the open beach, but they are not typically, however, "birds of the beach."
   
   

Distraction Displays

Many breeding birds react to potential predators - people, pets, etc. - by calling and giving what are called "distraction displays." On Seabrook, Wilson's Plovers, Willets, and Least Terns react with distinct displays. Terns call, fly, and dive at intruders (I've had Common Terns draw blood). However, the Killdeer gives a classic distraction display in which the adult, drops her wing which appears to be broken, and limps away from the nest or young calling loudly. When the potential predator is drawn far enough from the nest, the adult recovers and may return to the nest. A towhee, disturbed by a predator may elevate the tail, extend the neck, and run very close to the ground - a so-called "rodent run" display. The bird really looks like a chipmunk scurrying away...
       
    Banner - Killdeer. Duneloft marsh.
       
       
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