Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Black-necked Stilt--Himantopus mexicanus

A Black-necked Stilt resting on its nest last year at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
Black-necked Stilts are cool birds. Slender, black-and-white birds with long reddish-pink legs, they catch the eye as they wade through the water foraging or walk through the pickleweed toward their nests.

Pair taking a break from brooding.

Check out those long, red legs. When you figure out the percentage of leg compared to the total height of the bird, the Black-necked Stilt has one of the longest legs proportionally of any bird except the flamingo. The name "stilt" makes sense. Black-necked Stilts are sometimes called by their nickname, "Daddy Longlegs." Their feet are partially webbed.

Black-necked Stilt on nest in the pickleweed this year, 2008.

Black-necked Stilts are found in Orange County year-round, and so birders in Orange County have a good chance of seeing them if they go to the right habitat. Black-necked Stilts nest here in wetlands like Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Additional migrants join our resident Black-necked Stilts in the fall and winter.

Notice that the female on the left has a slightly brownish-black back. (Cinnamon Teal in foreground, left.)

The male and female look almost the same except for one small detail. The back of the female is brownish-black rather than the dark black of the male. Black-necked Stilts pair up for the breeding season only. Their nest starts with a depression in the ground that they fill with grasses and other material. Although gregarious for a good part of the year, Black-necked Stilts become territorial and aggressive during breeding season.

Black-necked Stilt foraging not far from its nest at Bosla Chica Ecological Reserve.
Black-necked Stilts forage for aquatic invertebrates, aquatic plant material, seeds, small fish, amphibians, and infrequently, reptiles. While the American Avocet forages with a side-to-side movement, the Black-necked Stilt forages mostly by looking for food and then picking it from the water or mud with their long bill.

Female foraging by the footbridge at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Black-necked Stilts are related to the American Avocet and there may have been occasions of hybridization between the two species. See links below.

Taking off.

Black-necked Stilts can be found in many areas in the United States including a subspecies in Hawaii. They can be found in any wet, soggy ground looking for food. Places they may be found include shallow areas of estuaries, salt marsh, salt ponds, fresh water marshes, rice fields, flooded fields, lagoons, some swamps, ponds, fresh water lake shallows, mud flats, and any fresh or salt water wetlands. The key word is shallow.

Paired for a season.

Black-necked Stilts on occasion do wade into deeper water. They can even swim--though they rarely do.

Black-necked Stilt in unusually deep water at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Black-necked Stilts can be found throughout the west and down into South America. It is a year-round resident in Orange County and the Salton Sea and in fact all Southern California.

Stilt wading in shallow water.

Video about the Black-necked Stilt from the State of Arizona Game and Fish Department. Posted on You Tube.

Next time you are out birding, check out this Orange County resident at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Bolsa Chica, and even on occasion in Huntington Central Park.

Black-necked Stilt foraging in mud at Huntington Central Park

Female foraging near the footbridge at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Black-necked Stilt foraging.

OC Birder Girl Links

American Avocet--Recurvirostra americana

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Great place to go birding in Orange County.

Central Park in Huntington Beach

Great place to go birding in Orange County. Includes a lake and nature center.

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Another great place to go birding in Orange County. The Audubon House is here as well as "duck ponds" that attract ducks, Black-necked Stilts, and lots more.

Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve aka Newport Back Bay

Another great place to go birding in Orange County. Has lots of wetlands and mesa. Wonderful streams through the wetlands. It also has the wonderful Muth Interpretive Center with its wonderful exhibits, great multimedia, and hands on activities.

Black-necked Stilt.

External Links and Resources

All About Birds: Black-necked Stilt

Detailed page on the Black-necked Stilt. Includes Photos, Cool Facts, Description, Similar Species,Sound, Range, Habitat, Behavior, Conservation Status, and Other Names.

BirdWeb: Black-necked Stilt

Article about the Black-necked Stilt from Seattle Audubon. Includes description, habitat, behavior, diet, nesting, and more.

Texas Parks and Wildlife: Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)

Good, short article.

State of Utah Natural Resources: Black-necked Stilt

Good article.

USGS: Black-necked Stilt

Short article.

Monterey Aquarium Online Field Guide: Black-necked Stilt

Short thorough article on the Black-necked Stilt.

Egg Shell Removal Behavior of American Avocets and Black-necked Stilts

A study of interesting American Avocet and the closely related Black-necked Stilt behavior and the reasons it might occur.

Apparent Hybrids between the American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt in California

An article and photo of apparent cross-breeding between two closely related species.

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