kill·​deer | \ ˈkil-ˌdir How to pronounce killdeer (audio) \
plural killdeers or killdeer

Definition of killdeer

: an American plover (Charadrius vociferus) characterized by two black breast bands and a plaintive penetrating cry

Illustration of killdeer

Illustration of killdeer

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Did You Know?

This attractive dark-eyed bird has a loud, rather sad cry that to some people sounds like “Kill deer! Kill deer!” Killdeers are not vicious birds. They have no special hatred of deer, and they do not eat venison. The killdeer is simply an animal that got its name from human interpretation of its call.

Examples of killdeer in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But perhaps this particular killdeer and its mate were just hoping to take in a performance by Ghostface Killah. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "A Nesting Bird Nearly Derailed a Canadian Music Festival," 28 June 2018 At the ballfields a pair of killdeer occupied the same area that seems to attract them each year. Taylor Piephoff, charlotteobserver, "A variety of birds share park’s lake, grass and trees | Charlotte Observer," 9 Mar. 2018 Also, 19 killdeer were lined up along the water’s edge, and a very cold-looking Eastern phoebe surveyed the ice. Taylor Piephoff, charlotteobserver, "Birders find local rarities at neighborhood ponds, Lake Norman | Charlotte Observer," 11 Jan. 2018 A lovely bird in the plover family, killdeer have black, white and tan on long legs with bright orange eyes. Anna Thomas Bates, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Take a cue from nature and 'hide' veggies in plain sight," 28 June 2017 A killdeer flew high above, and there were cardinals, a little farther away, sticking closer to the ground. Rick Rojas, New York Times, "Invisible ‘Bird Killer’ Lurks in Revitalized New Jersey Meadowlands," 26 Apr. 2017 Meanwhile, the disease has killed thousands of waterbirds, as well as nearly 200 bald eagles and a handful of geese, hawks, owls, killdeer, and probably more avian species. National Geographic, "Deadly Brain Disease Is Driving Swamp Birds Insane," 18 May 2016

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'killdeer.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of killdeer

1731, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for killdeer


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Time Traveler for killdeer

Time Traveler

The first known use of killdeer was in 1731

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Cite this Entry

“Killdeer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for killdeer


kill·​deer | \ ˈkil-ˌdir How to pronounce killdeer (audio) \

Kids Definition of killdeer

: a grayish brown North American bird that has a high-pitched mournful call

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