Montana Killdeer Chick

Normally I wouldn’t post a photo like this because there’s obstructions in front of the bird and the setting is probably too busy for some but sometimes an image grabs the viewer for personal reasons and for me this is one of those.


1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I took this photo of a young Killdeer during my recent camping trip to Montana and Idaho as it scurried around in the vegetation next to a pond at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. I had a devil of a time getting sharp images of this youngster because my active focus point kept being distracted by the sprigs of vegetation and the overall fuzziness of the bird didn’t give me a “hard” target. Despite the slight softness I still like the photo, partly for personal reasons.

Killdeer were the first bird I paid much attention to as a little kid. A creek ran through our Montana farm and as a young boy I spent countless delightful hours exploring several miles of it. That and riding my horse Star were my primary forms of entertainment back in those days (we didn’t have that newfangled TV on the farm and thankfully even primitive electronic games were still decades away). Killdeer and meadowlarks are the main two birds I remember but it was the Killdeer that really got my attention because of their almost constant alarm call as I walked through their nesting territory and because of their famous broken wing act when my presence really disturbed them.

And in the spring and early summer I learned to watch carefully for Killdeer chicks in the grasses. When they were very young those little fuzz balls absolutely delighted me, even as a “tough little farm boy” who emulated the macho attitudes of some of my older friends.

Most of us who love birds have a “spark species”. Killdeer were definitely one of mine and this photo brought back some fond memories of the good old days – probably at least in part because it was taken in Montana.


32 comments to Montana Killdeer Chick

  • Enjoyed your reminiscing Ron – what a special childhood – and I do like the image. We get Killdeer on the west side of Brigham City – sometimes just running in the street. And thank you April for the link.

  • I am so glad that you DID post this.
    Fuzzy babies float my boat. Much more than the young of our own species.
    It is also lovely to see some of the busy habitat it likes, and needs.

  • April Olson

    Adorable photo. The problem of working in wildlife rehab is the adorable chicks. Every time I see one I have a new favorite bird!

  • Betty Sturdevant

    This is a great picture showing the natural background. Sometime that is appealing. I watched a show on KUED last evening detailing the problem with wildlife not having the range of area they need to survive. One place that was spotlighted was Centennial Valley in Montana. Humans seem to be one of the worst hazards for wildlife because of they need more space to survive.

  • Susan Stone

    Who wouldn’t enjoy a photo of such a cute chick? I like how alert it is, and seeing the color patterns that are somewhat different from adults. Looks to me like the obstructing seeds are peppergrass.

  • Trudy Brooks

    Oh, Just so sweet and cute. I use to see the nests of Killdeer on a flat roof with rocks to help camouflage the nest. Then for several years I checked out nest on a walk over gravel area. I loved the way the parent did the broken wing thing and even dive at me. Then several times I would find the nest and no birds. I also got to see the little yellow and black chicks. They were so cute, and within a few days they were gone. I hope they got old enough to fly away. Thanks.

    • Trudy, I’m sure you noticed how hard their nests are to spot, even when they’re right in front of you. I’ve always wondered how many nests I stepped on without even knowing it…

  • Patty Chadwick

    “Cotton ball on toothpicks” —love it!!!… Love the sound they make…though dry landers they make me think of the sea. We had fresh air, fresh food, clean water, no light pollution–also seems like you had some of the same “toys” I had…fields, streams, woods(?) and a wonderful animals like a dog and a horse to share our adventures with…We were so,so lucky–so “rich”…and we didn’t even know it…No plastic or electronic miracle gadget can even come close!!! So many kids today are “environmentally deprived”….

    • Laura Culley

      And I weep for them. And while they’re not looking, folks who value money over the environment and wildlife are stealing our wild places heritage. I can’t even imagine what the next 20 years will bring.

    • I agree with you, Patty – on all counts. I can’t imagine looking back on my childhood memories and having most of them be of me sitting on a sofa with some kind of electronic controller in my hand.

  • Laura Culley

    Kildeer are just spectacular (can you get the impression that I just LOVE birds/raptors/critters? I’m not real fussy on that.). I didn’t get to see them growing up, but they enthralled me the first time I saw them. And I LOVE Judy’s description of “a cottonball on toothpicks!”
    Personally, I think kids have lost a lot in the years since my often outside and feral childhood without electronic distractions. I think outside things spark overall curiosity, and thus, expansion of real knowledge instead of computer-generated simulations of the REAL world–and that happens on a lot of different levels. There is so much magic outside.
    My spark species were blue jays, cardinals and robins. Growing up near Akron, Ohio, the return of robins gave us a sense that the dreary and dismal winter couldn’t last a whole lot longer. Spring really was coming, despite the current indications to the contrary that it could possibly go on forever.

    • Laura, folks often mention robins as an early sign of spring but around here we typically have some of them around all year long so I’ve never thought of them in that way.

  • I can still remember my first killdeer nest and the broken wing act. It was 1962, and I was ten years old.

    • Wow, that’s a precise memory you have, Jo. I used to have a good memory but I’ve forgotten when…

      • It really isn’t that good. But it was the summer after Hurricane Carla hit our little island community. My mother and I also watched Least Terns and Black Skimmers nesting close to the ferry landing. All of that is gone now, people like condos and t-shirt shops better.

  • What beautiful markings the little fuzzball has–and the large head and big eyes that are so endearing in babies of all species are made extra striking by that coral-colored eye-liner…..thanks for this !

  • Judy Gusick

    I LOVE Killdeer – the really little ones are like a cotton ball on toothpicks! 🙂 The adults antics to distract you are great. 🙂 This year I even had one harass me from the air rather than running on the ground. Thx for sharing! 🙂

  • Elmer Deloso

    Beautiful, i love this. A “clean” surrounding (IMHO) would remove the subject from its natural environment which would reduce the “spark”. Thanks for sharing, first time seeing a young killdeer.