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First Killdeer Returning to Northeastern Breeding Grounds

3-1-16 killdeer 062Killdeer that breed in the southern half of the U.S. are year round residents, and do not migrate, but in the northern half of the U.S. killdeer are migratory. Their wintering range extends across the southern tier of states, through Mexico and the Caribbean and along the coastal regions of western South America (Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru). Killdeer that breed in the Northeast overwinter in Gulf and southern states that border the Atlantic Ocean.

The first returning killdeer have been sighted in Vermont. While the spring migration of killdeer is early, it is also prolonged, peaking in late March or early April in New England. Killdeer migrate during the day as well as at night, in flocks of 6-30 birds. When they stop to rest and/or forage, the birds typically do not go within 13 to 20 feet of each other, and are met with aggression from other flock members if they do. Once on their breeding grounds, killdeer are even less tolerant of each other. The courtship behavior in one pair often elicits aggressive behavior from neighboring pairs.

Now is the time to keep ears and eyes open for this inland-nesting shorebird. Corn fields, lawns and parking lots are a good place to start. For a perfect example of onomatopoeia, listen to Lang Elliott’s killdeer recording: (Sound recording © Lang Elliott –

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5 responses


    Hi Mary,

    I live on Greensboro Road in Hanover. A neighbor had a bobcat sighting yesterday morning. It was crossing the road by her house from the big field on Greensboro.

    I love your blogs!

    March 7, 2016 at 9:13 am

    • I’ve driven that road SO many times! What a thrill it would be to see a bobcat crossing it! Thank you so much for letting me know about the sighting.

      March 7, 2016 at 9:24 am

  2. Almost stepped on a killdeer nest in a Burger King parking lot in Ohio. Begged a saw horse from the manager (who thought me nuts) to set over it. Hope they survived.

    March 7, 2016 at 9:13 am

    • Who else would think of, much less go to, all that trouble!

      March 7, 2016 at 9:25 am

  3. mariagianferrari

    Wonderful! I used to love seeing killdeer in the harvested cornfields near our house in NH. Now I live in VA, and they seem to love the soccer fields around here 🙂

    March 7, 2016 at 12:42 pm

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