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.
Averages 36 cm (14 in.)
Male: Up to 45 cm (18 in.)
No data
Includes brine flies, crayfish, brine shrimp, snails, few fish, tadpoles, and some seeds
30 to 33 days
Clutch Size
3 to 4 eggs
Sexual Maturity
No data
Life Span
Averages 5 years
Found throughout southern and western U.S. and south to Peru
Inhabits mud flats, pools and grassy marshes; also both fresh and alkaline shallow lakes
Global: Unknown
IUCN:  Hawaiian subspecies is listed as Endangered
CITES: No data
USFWS: No data

Fun Facts

The name stilt is in 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 monotonous series of loud piping sounds to communicate.

Stilts use a technique called "belly-soaking," which is the transport of water in the ventral feathers. In hot climates 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.

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

Shorebirds, including the black-necked stilt, embark on one of the longest migrations of any North American birds, journeying from arctic nesting grounds to winter in Central and South America. Many species travel more than 24140 km (15,000 mi.) round-trip and fly at altitudes exceeding 3048 m (10,000 ft) at 80 kph (50 mph).

Ecology and Conservation

Although more than 20 million shorebirds migrate through the United States to the Arctic each year, scientists recently discovered that the long-term survival of abundant species such as black-necked stilts may be in jeopardy. While traveling, the birds stop at certain points along the U.S. that provide abundant food; this helps the birds restore energy for the next leg of their flight. In North America, five such sites support more than a million shorebirds each year! Scientists believe that more than 80% of the entire North American population of some species may converge at any of these key locations. Plenty of food and land is needed to house that many birds. Fortunately, in several of these sites, local government has recognized the importance of the birds and has implemented regulations to help them feed and migrate successfully.


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Perrins, C.. Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World. New York: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. 1979.

Perrins, C. M. And Dr. Alex L.A. Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File Pub. 1985.

Perrins, C. M. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds: The Definitive Reference to Birds of the World. New York: Prentice Hall Press. 1990.

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