GCBO's Bird of the Month: May
Black-necked Stilt
Geography/Habitat :

In Texas, the Black-necked Stilt ( Himantopus mexicanus ) is common summer resident along the Coastal Prairies, inland to the South Texas Brush Country, and the southern Blackland Prairies. There are isolated breeding populations in north and north-central Texas and they are uncommon to rare summer residents on the High Plains, western Rolling Plains, and northeastern Trans-Pecos. Near the Rio Grande in El Paso and Hudspeth counties they are common to uncommon. In the winter they are rare along the Coastal Prairies and in El Paso and Hudspeth counties. In spring, they begin arriving in late March and the majority of the population has departed by October. In the U.S. there are isolated populations in the western U.S. and along the Gulf Coast. Worldwide their range extends south to South America with year round populations in Central America.

They are found in shallow marshy or muddy ponds with limited vegetation. Black-necked Stilts spend much of the day wading in shallow waters to capture aquatic invertebrates, small crustaceans, amphibians, snails, and tiny fish. They prey on larval mosquitoes, soldier flies, brine flies, caddisflies, dragonflies, mayflies, crickets, grasshoppers, many kinds of beetles (including weevils), water-boatmen, crayfish, brine shrimp, tadpoles, and very small frogs and fish.

Identification:

Black-necked Stilt is a member of the Recurvirostridae Family (Avocets and Stilts) that is comprised of two species in the American Birding Association area. They are identified by their white and black body and extremely long red-pink legs. They have a white spot above the eye and their throat and breast is white. The cap, neck, and wings are black. The eye is red and the bill is very long and needle-like. Their typical weight is 6 oz. or 160 grams. They call frequently and the typical alarm call is a series of sharp “kip” or “yip” notes. They also make a “kek” call. 

Interesting Facts:

  • They were first described in 1776 by Philipp Ludwig Statius Muller, a German zoologist.
  • They feed in both salt and fresh water on half webbed feet that allow them to swim, although they rarely do.
  • They have the second longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos.
  • Black-necked stilts sometimes participate in a "popcorn display,” which involves a group of birds gathering around a ground predator and jumping, hopping, or flapping to drive it away from their nests.
  • The oldest recorded Black-necked Stilt was at least 12 years, 5 months old and was banded in Venezuela and refound in the Lesser Antilles.
  • Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet belong to the same family (Recurvirostridae), and are capable of hybridizing and producing young. The hybrid offspring are rare. Those who have documented this cross have given it the nickname “avo-stilt.”
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