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By Peter Vankevich
Ocracoke has many visitors that have arrived with the recent exteme cold and storm systems in the region. These are not people, especially with the cancellation of many ferry runs, but birds — and lots of them.
One of these, a shorebird known as the Killdeer, has been seen in yards throughout the village and alongside of the Irvin Garrish Highway heading into the village.
The Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is a medium-sized plover and gets its English name comes from their distinctive “kill deer” cry.
You can identify them by their brown back and wings, a white belly and breast that has two distinctive black bands. In flight, the lower back is tawny orange. The face and cap are brown with a white forehead.
These plovers can be seen year-round in varying numbers, but rarely in the high numbers seen in the past few days. In fact, just one Killdeer was reported at Springer’s Point on Dec. 30, the day of the Christmas Bird Count.
They probably moved in due to the snow and cold weather in the region and headed east — not south — in search of food.
To read more about Killdeer on Ocracoke, click here.
Lots of American Robins and American Pipits can be seen in the village right now. Another usually secretive marsh bird, the Wilson’s Snipe, can be seen feeding along the sides of the Irvin Garrish Highway. Pipits are similar in plumage and size to the very common Yellow-rumped Warbler and can be distinguished by white outer tail feathers in flight. They are also ground feeders.
These birds can be seen from a safe distance. Observers should not spook them by getting too close. They are already stressed from the extended cold and need to spend time feeding.