Black-Winged Stilt Fact File
The black-winged stilt is a wading bird. This ability is aided by the their legs, the longest relative to body size of any bird. These allow them to remain above the water level while foraging.
These birds forage either by sight or using their beak to seek out a range of invertebrates and small vertebrates.
Both parents work together to raise the eggs which are deposited in a shallow scrape near the water’s edge.
The black-winged stilt is also known as the pied stilt, white-headed stilt, longshank or dog-bird. Learn more about the brilliant birds by reading on.
Black-winged stilts are as their name suggests colored black across their wings with another black patch present at the base of the neck running up towards the crown. Across the rest of the body they are colored white. In some individuals a pinkish wash is present across the breast.
Protruding from the head is a long, narrow beak which is pointed at the tip. The eye is colored black.
The name stilt references the long pink legs which are extremely thin. In relation to body size their legs are considered the longest of any bird. This adaptation helps them to access areas of deep water to feed.
Males and females have similar appearances. These birds measure 35 to 40cm (14-16in) long with a weight of between 150 and 200g (5 and 7oz). Their wingspan is up to 73cm (28.7oz) across.
Black-winged stilts are carnivores. Their diet is highly variable by season. It includes a range of aquatic insects, molluscs, crustaceans, worms, tadpoles, small fish and their eggs. Some seeds may occasionally be consumed.
Food is found either through sight or by moving the bill through the water. They can be quite agile in the ways they move to find food.
The range of the black-winged stilt covers every continent except for Antarctica. Populations also exist in a range of island nations including New Zealand and Madagascar.
In Australia they can be found across much of the continent only being absent from the arid interior areas and the island of Tasmania.
They make their home in a diverse rang of wetland habitats including claypans, flooded paddocks and salt lakes. These habitats feature sand, mud or clay substrates.
Populations of black-winged stilts will be found near water with marshes, swamps, riverbeds and lakes providing suitable habitat. Humans have expanded the available habitats through the construction of flooded fields, irrigated areas, sewage ponds and fish ponds.
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Their wide range across the world means their is no one breeding season.
Black winged stilts nest in a depression or shallow scrape which is on hard ground close to the waters edge. It may also be among grass or sedge. Occasionally pairs form a more elaborate nest from aquatic vegetation.
Nesting sits either include a single pair or a loose colony.
In to this nest they deposit between 2 and 4 eggs which are incubated for 22 to 25 days. Both parents will work together to incubate the eggs.
Within an hour of hatching the chicks are able to leave the nest. They spend the next month with their parents.
If a predator approaches the adults will pretend to be injured which lures the predator away from the vulnerable young. They may also fly around erratically to try and distract the predator. Males maintain a small territory around their nest that they prevent other stilts entering.
Sexual maturity is reached between 1 and 2 years old.
Their vocalization is a loud yapping repeated over and over.
In the northern parts of their range the black-winged stilt will undertake a migration. During this they move south for winter. Between March and April they will return to their breeding areas.
While primarily active by day they have good nocturnal vision and may forage at night.
These bids live in flocks of between 10 and 20 birds. They may also form a mixed flock with other species of bird.
They fly with a steady wing-beat and the legs stretched out behind their tail.
Predators and Threats
In New Zealand introduced species such as the ferret and cat will prey on these birds.
A major threat to the black-winged stilt is habitat destruction.
These birds may also be known as the pied stilt, white-headed stilt, longshank or dog-bird.
Their scientific name himantopous comes from a Greek word meaning water-bird.
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