Online Encyclopedia

KILLDEER

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V15, Page 795 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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KILLDEER, a common American plover, so called in imitation of its whistling cry, the Charadrius vociferus of Linnaeus, and the Aegialitis vocifera of modern ornithologists. About the size of a snipe, it is mostly sooty-brown above, but showing a bright buff on the tail coverts, and in flight a white bar on thewings; beneath it is pure white except two pectoral bands of deep black. It is one of the finest as well as the largest of the group commonly known as ringed plovers or ring dotterels,' forming the genus Aegialitis of Boie. Mostly wintering in the south or only on the sea-shore of the more northern states, in spring it spreads widely over the interior, breeding on the newly ploughed lands or on open grass-fields. The nest is made in a slight hollow, and is often surrounded with small pebbles and fragments of shells. Here the hen lays her pear-shaped, stone-coloured eggs, four in number, and always arranged with their pointed ends touching each other, as is the custom of most Limicoline birds. The parents exhibit the greatest anxiety for their offspring on the approach of an intruder. It is the best-known bird of its family in the United States, where it is less abundant in the north-east than farther south or west. In Canada it does not range farther northward than 56° N.; it is not known in Greenland, and hardly in Labrador, though it is a passenger in Newfoundland every spring and autumn.2 In winter it finds its way to Bermuda and to some of the Antilles, but it is not recorded from any of the islands to the windward of Porto Rico. In the other direction, however, it travels down the Isthmus of Panama and the west coast of South America to Peru. The killdeer has several other congeners in America, among which may be noticed Ae. semipalmata, curiously resembling the ordinary ringed plover of the Old World, Ae. hiaticula, except that it has its toes-connected by a web at the base; and Ae. nivosa, a bird inhabiting the western parts of both the American continents, which in the opinion of some authors is only a local form of the widely spread Ae. alexandrina or cantiana, best known as Kentish plover, from its discovery near Sandwich towards the end of the 18th century, though it is far more abundant in many other parts of the Old World. The common ringed plover, Ae. hiaticula, has many of the habits of the killdeer, but is much less often found away from the sea-shore, though a few colonies may be found in dry warrens in certain parts of England many miles from the coast, and in Lapland at a still greater distance. In such localities it paves its nest with small stones (whence it is locally known as " Stone hatch "), a habit almost unaccountable unless regarded as an inherited instinct from shingle-haunting ancestors. (A. N.)
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