© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved. killdeer1

Killdeer hatchlings in Providence

A Killdeer is a medium-sized plover with an unfortunate name but truly adorable babies. I photographed this endearing scene while on a lunch break in May, just walking around Providence. Killdeer get their name from their shrill, wailing kill-deer call.

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

In late June, I was riding my bike when a Killdeer appeared and started to yell while running through a parking lot. Since I’m familiar with Killdeer behavior, I knew this male was protecting a nearby nest and running away from it with the hope I would follow. But, his plan backfired because I now knew there was a nest somewhere nearby. Once I spotted the female sitting in the gravel, I made sure not to get too close as to scare her away. I didn’t stay long, just snapped a few photos so she would still feel undiscovered.

Can you spot the female Killdeer sitting in this picture? I’ll post the answer below.

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Killdeer nest on the ground, usually on sand or gravel which their eggs have evolved to match. Sometimes people will put a small sign near a nest so passersby are aware to keep dogs away, etc, but this nest was in a location I felt was safe so I left it alone. Her camouflage was amazing, she didn’t need any help from me.

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Days later, powerful thunderstorms passed through and I wondered if the Killdeer and her eggs would be blown away… but when skies cleared she was still there, sitting pretty. You can see one egg in this photo – grey with black speckles.

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

A few days later it was very hot so the mom stood up and walked around to cool off, which fortunately allowed me to see she was incubating four eggs in total.

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

I did some research and calculated the eggs would hatch around July 19, so I didn’t visit for couple of weeks. On July 18, I was happy to see the devoted mother was still there incubating sealed eggs. On July 19, I was hoping to see maybe one or two of the eggs had hatched, but to my surprise all four eggs were now replaced by four sleepy hatchlings…

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

The surprises continued when all four stood up and started running around, curiously exploring the new world outside their eggshells, less than 24 hours after hatching.

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

Mom had a hard time keeping the newborns under her wing! The dad was not there to help – I had not seen him since the very first day I encountered this family. Unfortunately, I do not know what happened to him.

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.
© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.

The next day the entire family was nowhere to be found. There was no reason to stay around the nest anymore. Ground-nesting animals have to grow up quickly to avoid predators. Hopefully they all safely found their way to water and will live long and happy lives. The oldest known Killdeer was 10 years 11 months old. [source]

Here’s the answer to the “find the killdeer” challenge:

© 2014 Peter Green. All rights reserved.


  1. Posted 08.13.14 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Wonderful photojournalism on a species rarely seen or understood. Thank you, Peter!

  2. Donna
    Posted 08.13.14 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Peter, that was amazing! I have never seen a Killdeer myself but WOW, what lovely creatures they are!! Thanks so much for the great pics and narration!

  3. Karen
    Posted 08.13.14 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photos! Great story.

  4. Posted 08.13.14 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Great photos and lots of new-to-me information. Thanks Peter!

  5. Jana HEsser
    Posted 08.13.14 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Wow… wonderful pictures and narrative. It’s amazing they would nest in an urban area but I have seen killdeer in the oddest places but not nesting ones. Love those chicks! Thanks!

  6. Alex La Force
    Posted 08.13.14 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Peter –
    They’re adorable! Great spotting on your part. I walk at the Veterans’ Cemetery in Exeter every Friday, and there are usually several kildeer calling, indicating, as you’ve pointed out, that there is a nest or babies around. Since they do this on the grass where there are graves, and often, workers readying the ground for more graves, I worry that the nest is going to get run over….

  7. Gerry Krausse
    Posted 08.13.14 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I have filmed killdeer for many years. To me these ground nesters are some of the easiest birds to get close to and to find their nests. Try that with woodcock. Next time you have a chance like this set up a blind and you can get up to a few feet of them, after a while they are quite tolerant of such object near their nest. Unfortunately many of these chick will not make it because they easy prey for a lot of other critters. Gerry

    • Peter Green
      Posted 08.13.14 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Can we watch some of your films online, Gerry? Please share a link, thank you.

    • Gerry Krausse
      Posted 08.13.14 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately I have nothing on line, My projects are too big. Been wanting to do a website for years but just don’t have the time for it. You can see one older project at the RI National Wildlife Refuge, Kettle Pond Visitor Center in Charlestown. I give a lot of public presentations where I show portions of my work. In about 3 month I hope to have a 2 hr. black bear video ready.

  8. Cynthia glinick
    Posted 08.13.14 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Have come across many killdeer nesting on the rocky beaches. They all do the “broken wing” ruse. How lucky to find one nesting in Providence! I see them flying and calling but not nesting. Thanks for your persistence in capturing this wonderful family.

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