Beak of the Week: Killdeer’s Stature Is Less Intimidating Than Its Name


A killdeer is neither killer nor deer. 

This sandpiper-like bird is similar to deer in at least three ways, though: They’re skittish, have long legs and live their lives on the ground. 

Most members of the “plover” family are shorebirds. As plovers, killdeer often live near water, but they’re also easy to find in rocky or gravel grasslands throughout Washington.

In Chehalis, they can occasionally be found in the parking lot of the Dairy Bar or near the now-closed Olympic Elementary School. 

These birds also frequent rocky beaches along the Chehalis River, especially in the very wild, rocky stretch of river between Galvin and Oakville.

Killdeer nest in rocks and usually only take flight when hunting or after they’ve been disturbed. 

Where most birds use elevation to protect their nests, killdeer have choreographed their own method. Parents, when a predator nears their nest, pretend to limp away with a broken wing, tempting hungry creatures away from eggs.

Despite the seemingly-violent name, killdeer are smaller than their long legs make them seem. According to the Cornell Bird Lab, they weigh between 2.6 and 4.5 ounces, around the same weight as three or four standard envelopes. 


Beak of the Week is a feature from Assistant Editor Isabel Vander Stoep and includes her photos of birds that can be located within The Chronicle’s coverage area. She can be reached at