Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)



The killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is a large plover found in the Americas. It was described and given its current scientific name in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus in the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae. Three subspecies are described. The killdeer's common name comes from its often-heard call. Its upperparts are mostly brown with rufous fringes, the head has patches of white and black, and two black bands cross the breast. The belly and the rest of the breast are white. The nominate (or originally described) subspecies breeds from southeastern Alaska and southern Canada to Mexico. It is seen year-round in the southern half of its breeding range; the subspecies C. v. ternominatus is probably resident in the West Indies, and C. v. peruvianus inhabits Peru and areas of the surrounding countries throughout the year. North American breeders winter from their resident range south to Central America, the West Indies, and the northernmost portions of South America. The killdeer is a large plover, with adults ranging in length from 20 to 28 cm (7.9 to 11.0 in), having a wingspan between 59 and 63 cm (23 and 25 in), and usually being between 72 and 121 g (2.5 and 4.3 oz) in weight. It has a short, thick, and dark bill, flesh-colored legs, and a red eye ring.

Distribution And Habitat

The Killdeer occurs from North America through western South America including the Caribbean, where it is a common resident in The Bahamas and Greater Antilles and to a lesser extent in the Virgin Islands. It ranges from uncommon to very rare in the rest of the West Indies (Raffaele and others 1998). It is common and fairly abundant in Puerto Rico (Biaggi 1997, Oberle 2018) and is considered a fairly common resident on Vieques (Gemmill 2015). This species is mostly associated with wet fields, mudholes (Raffaele and others 1998), pond edges, mudfl ats, golf courses, and residential lawns (Oberle 2018). The atlas fieldwork yielded a total of 339 records within 192 hexagons or 40 percent of the 479 total hexagons (see map). Of the 192 hexagons where this species was found, breeding met the atlas definition of confirmed in 23 percent (44) of the hexagons, probable in 29 percent (56), and possible in 42 percent (81), while the species was observed in 6 percent (11) of the hexagons but without evidence of breeding (see map). Killdeer distribution. The map shows the highest breeding code by hexagon and overlaying the ecological life zones in Puerto Rico. Note: percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

Killdeer Distribution

Breeding Habits

The Killdeers nest consists of a slightly lined concavity on the ground (Biaggi 1997, Raffaele 105Killdeer/Chorlito Sabaneroand others 1998), which is sometimes bordered with dry weeds or small rocks (Biaggi 1997). Previously published reports indicate that it breeds from March to October (Raffaele and others 1998). Atlas results show that this species breeding season extends throughout the year with most breeding activity from March to July (see chart). Overall, the breeding activity peaks in May at the onset of the rainy season, and it mostly takes place in the subtropical moist forest life zone (see chart). Results show that this species occurs primarily on the coastal plain and breeds mostly within the subtropical moist forest life zone (63 percent of the hexagons), with some breeding in the subtropical dry forest life zone (33 percent of the hexagons) and in subtropical wet and lower montane wet forest life zones at higher elevations (4 percent of the hexagons) (see table and map).


The current population trend of the Killdeer is described as decreasing, although some populations are stable or have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2012). This species is currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN (BirdLife International 2016). Locally, this species is not listed in any of the threatened categories of PRDNER and USFWS. In Puerto Rico, the Killdeer has a protected habitat in land of 11 percent or 458 km2 of the total area covered by the hexagons where evidence of breeding was found for this species (4327 km2).