Grand Teton’s Killdeer: A Bird of Action


Imagine drifting down the Snake River, with the majestic Grand Tetons looming overhead to the west. Suddenly, a flash of brown streaks across the shoreline with fast, stiff, and intermittent wingbeats, its shrill two-tone call echoing in the air. You’ve just encountered a Killdeer, a fascinating shorebird that thrives in Grand Teton National Park!

While Killdeer aren’t the biggest birds you’ll see on your rafting trip, their energetic presence and unique antics are sure to capture your attention. These robin-sized birds are slender and lanky with long legs and a pointed tail, and sport a brownish top and a white chest with a distinctive double black breast band. But more than that, they are masters at creating distractions.

If you spot a Killdeer acting strangely, like dragging a wing or limping, don’t be fooled! This is their clever “broken-wing act,” a performance designed to lure you away from their vulnerable nests. Killdeer lay their eggs on the ground in a simple scrape, leaving them accessible to predators (although the speckled pattern on the eggs is a great natural camouflage). By drawing your attention away, they hope you won’t notice the nest nearby. The Snake River’s shores and gravel bars provide the ideal habitat for Killdeer, and they find an abundance of insects, their primary food source, along the water’s edge. 

Sharing the River with these Feathered Friends

As you enjoy your scenic float or a nice hike along aquatic areas, remember to be a responsible wildlife observer. Here are some tips:

  • Maintain a safe distance: Avoid getting too close to a Killdeer, especially if it’s acting strangely. This will only intensify their distraction display.
  • Minimize noise: Loud noises can startle Killdeer and potentially lead them to abandon their nest.
  • Enjoy the show! Observe Killdeer from afar and appreciate their unique behaviors.

Keep your eyes peeled for other exciting wildlife while rafting. Grand Teton National Park is home to a variety of birds, including bald eagles soaring overhead, osprey diving for fish, and songbirds filling the air with their melodies. And we’ve seen just about every four-legged animal that lives in the park from our comfortable rafts, too!

Are you ready to explore the Snake River and witness the wonders of Grand Teton National Park, including the fascinating Killdeer? Book your scenic float with Barker-Ewing Scenic Trips today! Our experienced guides will navigate you through breathtaking scenery while keeping an eye out for feathered friends like the Killdeer. Let’s create unforgettable memories on the Snake River together!

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