Killdeer mating


Recently I observed a pair of killdeer courting and mating at Kokanee Creek Park. Later in the same day, it happened again! Twice in one day!

At first, I only heard killdeer vocalizations. Remaining very still, I spotted a single killdeer standing, feeding and walking near the creek. By watching and listening, I realized it was communicating with another killdeer nearby.

The second killdeer was sitting on the ground with its tail spread, as if it were nesting.

However, I believe it was a male doing nest-scraping and courting vocalizations because it stood up and sat back down several times, spreading its tail towards the other killdeer and tossing out items with its beak as if to demonstrate its nest-building prowess.

After a bit of nest-scraping and pair-contact vocalizations, the two killdeer began walking around and near each other. To my surprise, the nest-scraping male, hopped up to ride atop the back of the other killdeer!

The female walked around with this male on her back for several seconds. As the male balanced and shifted his feet, the female tail feathers began to rise and the male seemed to wiggle slightly backwards. Suddenly, within a fraction of a second, the male leaned to the side and copulation occurred.

After this, the male dismounted and they both walked off in different directions while continuing to hunt and eat insects. This next photo was taken a few hours afterwards, during their second sexual encounter as dismount was occurring.

Killdeer pairs stay together for the breeding season. If an encounter is successful, egg laying will occur about a day after fertilization, followed soon by about 25 days of nested egg incubation, and the classic killdeer broken-wing nesting distraction behaviour that my father photographed in 2015 within 90 metres of this pair’s current breeding territory. 

Lake levels are currently low and expected to rise significantly in this pair’s breeding territory over the next months. I hope they build their nest on high enough ground.


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5 Responses to Killdeer mating

  1. Allan Hobden says:

    Oh my golly! In the right the right time..and with your camera!!..not once but twice…amazing split seconds caught…riding on her back..incredible sequence`steps…


  2. Chris Ensing says:

    Fascinating observations! Thank you!

  3. Karen Pidcock says:

    No privacy for these Killdeer, when Alistair is in their courting/mating vicinity! Thanks for the proof of their sexual behaviour. Now…the rest of us walking along shores, must keep our eyes open for the perfectly camouflaged nest of eggs! Take care!!

  4. Alistair Fraser says:

    Karen, the pictures and text of this posting were by my daughter, Cynthia.

  5. Cathy says:

    Your pictures are remarkable, and so very interesting. Well done Cynthia, following in your Father’s footsteps for sure. What a team!

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