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Discover the Fascinating World of Killdeer’s Diet and Feeding Habits

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Killdeer Diet

Killdeers are known for their unique and characteristic call which sounds like their name, “kill-deer.” Found not only in North America but also in parts of South America, these birds are shorebirds that inhabit open fields, marshes, and agricultural areas. They are known for their distinct plumage patterns which serve as camouflage when they nest on the ground.

While primarily insectivores, killdeer also consume other small invertebrates and, on occasion, small vertebrates. As a bird enthusiast or simply a curious observer, you may wonder what these birds prey on and how they acquire their food.

In this article, we will delve into the specifics of the killdeer diet. We will explore the insects and small vertebrates they consume, how they acquire their food, and the exceptions to their diet.

Killdeer Diet

1.1 Insects

Killdeers feed on a variety of insects ranging from grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, fly larvae, dragonflies, caddisflies, mosquito larvae, ants, spiders, and centipedes. Additionally, they consume earthworms and ticks, as well as various true bugs.

1.2 Small Vertebrates

Killdeer also feed on small vertebrates such as frogs, tadpoles, fish, and crayfish. They use their slender and pointed bills to capture their prey.

These small vertebrates are often opportunistic meals for the bird.

Killdeer Feeding Behaviour

2.1 Finding Food

Killdeer are known for their unique feeding behaviours. They often locate their food by patting the ground with their feet and probing the surface.

When in search of prey, they may often chase it. They are also known to follow tractors while plowing fields as the plow turns up worms, insects, and other small prey that the birds can eat.

2.2 Time of Day

Killdeers feed primarily in the day and spend the night resting. They remain active in early spring and summer when food is abundant and easier to find.

Winter Diet

3.1 Common Prey

During the winter months, killdeers might migrate or overwinter in warmer regions of their range. In these areas, they survive on a diet of Sod webworm adults, larvae, beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, earthworms, centipedes, and seeds.

3.2 Year-Round Residents

For year-round residents, they might partially migrate, moving southward within their range. They survive on their usual food sources during the winter; however, they do so less frequently due to the decreased abundance of their preferred invertebrates.

Summer Diet

4.1 Common Prey

Killdeer’s diet during the summer generally consists of insect larvae such as earthworms, grasshoppers, spiders, snails, crayfish, and small crustaceans. 4.2 Opportunistic Feeding

Summer is a time of abundance, and killdeer are known to take advantage of any opportunity to catch small vertebrates as well.

They may consume frogs, tadpoles, or small fish that happen to be available when they hunt.

Baby Killdeer

5.1 Feeding

Baby killdeer follow their parents to learn to hunt, but they also eat insects and crayfish found on the ground. The baby birds eat often to accommodate their fast growth rate.

Attracting Killdeer

6.1 Habitat

Killdeers thrive in open mowed areas, such as lawns or fields, with a water source nearby.

6.2 Foraging

Ground feeding is essential for attracting killdeer and helping them find natural food sources.

The use of bird feeders does not attract killdeer as their feeding behaviour relies on finding and capturing their prey from the ground.

Killdeer Diet FAQs

7.1 Eggshells

Killdeer do not consume their own or other birds eggshells. 7.2 Mealworms

Mealworms can be fed to killdeer but, as an insect, it doesn’t provide a nutritious diet for the birds.

7.3 Birdseed

Birdseed is occasionally eaten by killdeers, but they prefer consuming insects and crustaceans. 7.4 Bread

Bread is not part of killdeer’s natural or nutritious diet.

7.5 Ticks

Killdeer do eat ticks, which is a beneficial factor for farmers. 7.6 Tadpoles

Tadpoles are opportunistically eaten by killdeer, but they are not part of their primary diet.

7.7 Worms

Worms are a primary food source for killdeer and are an essential part of their diet.


Killdeers are fascinating shorebirds with unique characteristics and eating habits. Their diet is focused on insects and small invertebrates, while they also consume small vertebrates as an opportunistic meal.

Their feeding behaviour is distinctive and is dependent on finding prey on the ground. By understanding their diet preferences, we can create habitats that encourage them to forage naturally, increasing the chances of catching a glimpse of these amazing birds in their natural environment.

In conclusion, understanding the killdeer’s diet and feeding habits is essential to facilitate their natural foraging behavior and promote their survival. This article examined their primary diet of insects and small vertebrates, their feeding behavior, the winter and summer diet, baby killdeer’s feeding habits, and ways of attracting them.

Here are some essential FAQs: Killdeer do not consume eggshells; feeders do not attract killdeer as they rely on ground-feeding behavior; and worms are a primary food source, while bread is not part of their natural diet.

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