One of the most common shorebirds found in North America is the killdeer. When I went to South Dakota to participate in a shorebird workshop the killdeer was the first shorebird that I saw. I drove out to South Dakota the day before the workshop began and since I had some extra time I made a stop at Big Stone Lake, which is the headwaters for the Minnesota River. There in the grass around the lake I spotted about a half dozen killdeer foraging the field for insects, worms, snails and seeds.Like most shorebirds, killdeer can often be found in shallow water or mud puddles but killdeer are more versatile in their habitat then most other shore birds and they also are found in farm fields, pastures, golf courses, sports fields and gravel roads. There ability to coexist and adapt to man is the key reason why the killdeer have been so successful.
Another reason for the killdeers success is their acting ability. Since they are a ground nester they often have to worry about predators like felines, canines, raccoons and other mammals attacking their nest. When predators such as these get near the nest the adult killdeer will often pose as an injured bird and try to lure the predator away from the nest.
The killdeer was not the only member of the plover family that I saw at the shorebird workshop. The semipalmated plover looks very similar to the killdeer except that it is missing a second stripe across its chest.
Semipalmated plovers nest up in the arctic regions of Alaska and Canada. We typically only see them during migration when they travel to wintering grounds which are located in the southern coastal areas of North America as well as coastal regions in Mexico, Central and South America. During migration they often stop at shallow pools and mud flats across much of North America looking for food to sustain them on their long flight.
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