by Kyle Sweet, Superintendent Sanctuary Golf Course
The Black-necked Stilt , which is widely distributed throughout the United States, is seemingly a delicate bird, due to its thin stilt legs, slim wings and needle-like bill. Appearances can be misleading as this bird is far from delicate, thriving on sun baked flats and shallow lakes in our countries hottest climates.
More partial to fresh water than salt, the stilt inhabits grassy marshes, mudflats and pools throughout all seasons. Nesting in these areas requires some open ground near the water. Nesting occurs on the ground and basically consists of a built up mound of soil or debris lines with pebbles or shells. Incubation of the eggs is handled by both adults. In the hottest climates, to insure the success of the new generation, adults have been observed going to the water, wetting belly feathers and returning to the next to cool the eggs. Similar to the Killdeer, the Black –necked Stilt, due to its ground nesting, may attempt to attract nest predators by having a group of adults fly away from the nesting site and perform a distraction display in hope of drawing the predator away from the nest. Interestingly, it’s been documented that a group of adults may also fly to the nest and hop around the nest to distract to deter predators away from the nest. Once hatched, the young are able to leave the nest quite quickly and are only four to five weeks old at first flight.
The Stilt finds its food visually and feeds mostly on insects and crustaceans. Flies beetles, shrimp, crayfish and snails can round out the diet of the stilt.
As mentioned many times before, a good spotting scope or binoculars will be critical toward catching a look at these birds. They are often quite a distance away and move quickly into grassy protected areas when approached.
Cool Fact : The 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 and a treat for birders. Those that have documented this cross have given it the nickname “avo-stilt”.