Ask SIB – Why are there so many Killdeer this winter?

Killdeer – Ed Konrad

Question:

A few of us have noticed numerous active Killdeer across the island. In fields, on the golf courses and along the side of the road. We don’t remember seeing so many in past years. Any explanation? 

Answer from Judy Morr & David Gardiner:

Killdeer Frequency in Charleston County 2016-2018. Data source: eBird.org

As we were doing the Audubon Christmas Bird count last week, we commented there were more Killdeer than usual.  Using the Abundance chart in eBird (rather than frequency) it appears the Killdeer are here a little earlier than usual.

I don’t have definitive explanations of why there seem to be so many, but just like the American Woodcock coastal migration during freezes, I suspect the Killdeer are seeking more thawed ground when they first arrived during the deep freeze we had, and then chose to stay around.

Even though we had a deep freeze, the coastal islands typically will stay above freezing for longer than inland, due to the ocean and even then the salt in the air helps keep ground from freezing when it does dip below 32 degrees. This is only conjecture, not based on documentation.

To learn more about the Killdeer, read the blog we wrote a year ago.