Black-necked Stilt: Seashore Saturday

This week we will be featuring the Black-necked Stilt, a member of the shorebird family. While you can find them at coastlines, you can also find Stilts inland at grassy marshes and mudflats.

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)

Description:

Black-necked Stilts are large, slender shorebirds that are known for their extraordinarily long, thin red legs. They have black from their heads to their tails and white underneath. Their black bills are long and straight.

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Black-necked Stilt (Image by Dan Pancamo via wikimedia commons)

Range:

Year-round on the coast of California, Mexico, the Gulf Coast, the Caribbean, and parts of South America. Summer (breeding): parts of the Interior West of the United States and Southeastern Atlantic Coast Winters: Baja California Migration: Southwest and Northern Mexico, Central America

Habitat:

Wetlands, grassy marshes, mudflats, coastlines

Food:

Black-necked Stilts probe the water or mudflats for fish and aquatic invertebrates. They will also herd fish into shallow waters to trap them or plunge their heads underwater to catch food.

Breeding/Nesting:

They are considered semicolonial, meaning they will nest in loose colonies of around a dozen pairs, as opposed to colonial birds who nest in the hundreds of pairs. Pairs choose the nesting site together, which is usually on the ground or on a surface slightly above water, such as a small island. Nest sites can be as simple as a scrape in the ground, or gently lined with grasses or small pebbles.

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Black-necked Stilt chick (Image by Shravans14 via wikimedia commons)

They have 1 brood per year with a clutch size of 3-5 eggs, usually 4. Pairs take turns incubating the eggs for about 25 days. The young are precocial, meaning they are relatively mature and mobile from the moment they hatch. Young can be seen swimming within hours after hatching. Both parents watch over the young, but they chicks feed themselves. They take their first flights around 4-5 weeks after hatching.

Sounds:

A repeated sharp pleek or taawh

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A Stilt in flight (Image by Joe Fuhrman/VIREO via audubon.org)

Fun Facts:

  • Black-necked Stilts are strongly territorial. They whole colony will participate when it comes to scaring off predators. They will hop up and down, encircle the intruder, and flap their wings.
  • If it’s very hot during breeding, a bird may wet their belly feathers to cool down the eggs.
  • Black-necked Stilts have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird. They are only exceeded by Flamingos.
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Author: BirdNation

I am an avid birder, teacher, and nature lover. I primarily birdwatch throughout New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania.

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