Black-Necked Stilt

Black-Necked Stilt

Scientific Classification

Common Name
black-necked stilt
Recurvirostridae (backward curved beak)
Genus Species
Himantopus (strap-legged – in reference to the slender lower leg) mexicanus (of Mexico)

Fast Facts

The black-necked stilt is a black and white shorebird with darker colored dorsal feathers, a long neck and a thin, straight, black bill. The legs are long and red or pink. The male has glossy black feathers and a white spot above each eye. The female has dark, brown dorsal feathers.
Adults average around 36 cm (14 in.) in length but large males may reach 45 cm (18 in.).
6 to 7 ounces
These birds may feed on small seeds, flies, crayfish, brine shrimp, snails, tadpoles, and fish.
30 to 33 days
Clutch Size
3 to 4 eggs
Sexual Maturity
1 year
Life Span
5 years
These birds can be found throughout the southern and western U.S., Central America, and south to Peru.
Black-necked stilts inhabit mud flats, shallow pools, and grassy marshes. They can be found in both fresh and alkaline shallow lakes as well as in seasonally flooded wetlands.  They are primarily a lowland bird but they have been seen at elevations up to 2,500 m (8,200 ft.) in Central America.
The North American population is healthy and has an extensive range. Their numbers have declined over the last century due to habitat loss, pollution, and competition for limited food resources.
IUCN:  Least Concern
CITES: No data
USFWS: No data

Fun Facts

Their name is a reference to their long, thin legs, which are ideal for wading in shallow waters while foraging for food.  They use their partially webbed toes to help them swim in deeper water to search for marine invertebrates and insects.

Black-necked stilts use a series of loud piping sounds to communicate.

In hot climates, the adults use “belly soaking” to cool themselves, the eggs or chicks, and to increase nest humidity. Stilts may make over 100 trips for water a day.

These birds distract predators using aerial maneuvers and mock injuries to protect their young. Incredibly, they are also able to swim for short periods of time using their wings. 

Ecology and Conservation

While migrating, these birds stop at certain points along the way that provide abundant food. This helps the birds restore their energy for the next leg of their flight. In North America, five such sites support more than a million shorebirds each year. Plenty of food and land is needed to accommodate that many birds. Fortunately, wildlife authorities and conservation groups recognize the ecological importance of those areas and have implemented regulations to help the birds feed and migrate successfully.


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Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S. Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc. 1966.

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