Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)

Photograph of the Black-necked Stilt


The black-necked stilt reaches a height of 13 to17 inches (33 to 43 cm), with a 27-inch (68 cm) wingspan. Adult males have black backs, white bellies, black bills and long red or pinkish legs. Adult females look the same as males, but have brownish backs. Both males and females have long, pointed black wings and a slender bill that curves slightly upward.
Life History
Worms, mollusks, shrimp, insects, small fish, and sometimes floating seeds make up the black-necked stilt's diet. Foxes, gulls, skunks, coyotes, and other birds prey on the stilt. It reaches sexual maturity at one year. Their mating season lasts from April through August. Nests are built on the ground near water, and are made of sticks, mud, or shells, or scrapes in the ground, and may be lined with grass, twigs, and shells. Females lay three or four tan-colored eggs with dark brown or black irregular spots. Incubation is 22 to 26 days. Chicks are able to run, walk and swim as soon as their down is dry, which is usually within 24 hours of hatching. Their lifespan is approximately 20 years.

Black-necked stilts may arrange their nests in small colonies of six to ten nests. Although parents share nest-tending through the incubation period, males will often mob intruders and will even try to chase people away. After the chicks hatch, the parents will remove all eggshells from the nest, probably to better camouflage the nest. At night, chicks will hide from predators in the water, inhibiting predators from seeing them or smelling them.

Black-necked stilts are also called daddy longlegs, stilts and longshanks. Stilts' legs are longer in proportion to their bodies than any other bird except the flamingo. Stilts belong to the family Recurvirostridae which, in Latin, means "bent bill." Black-necked stilts have partially webbed feet, which allow them to swim - but they rarely do.
Black-necked stilts prefer marshes, mudflats, flooded fields, ponds and drainage ditches where food is abundant.
This common shorebird is found along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as the Gulf Coast. It sometimes ranges inland to states such as Idaho, Kansas, or in the Rocky Mountains. The black-necked stilt winters in Brazil, Peru, the West Indies, and southern parts of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and summers on the Gulf Coast.
The black-necked stilt wades in shallow water to catch food. It is widely distributed along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States and is a common summer resident of the Gulf Coast region. Because they will use man-made structures such as drainage ditches and sewage ponds for habitat, the range of blacknecked stilts is expanding.