Monday, August 20, 2012

Black-Necked Stilts

Black-necked stilts are one of my favorite birds. For one thing they are EASY to identify - nothing else looks like them with their long pink legs and bold black and white markings.

They breed in shallow wetlands from Washington State and Montana, west to California and south through Texas.  They live and breed year round along the Texas Coast down through Mexico and in Southern California and also in a few places in South America. 

Black-necked stilts nest on the ground. They choose surfaces above the water line, such as clumps of vegetation above the water line.  Both the parents choose the site, looking for places with soft ground that can be scraped away to form a two inch depression for the nest.  They may add lining as they build the nest together  grass, shells, mud chips - whatever is nearby.

The chicks hatch after a 21-26 day incubation time.  They are down-covered and precocial, able to move around, leave the nest, and begin foraging with two hours of hatching.  They are well camouflaged, blending in well with their marshy environment.

 I find that the parents are very vocal when you come near their nest. They fly off, calling plaintively, hoping you will follow them away from the nest.  At Brazoria, there was a very vocal stilt nesting near the port-a-pottie.  I felt sorry for it because it seemed so upset when people came by to use the facility.

Wading through shallow marsh areas, stilts hunt for small aquatic invertebrates and fish.  Sometimes they herd fish into shallow waters to trap them for easy hunting.

In the Austin area, they can be seen in the water treatment ponds at Hornsby Bend. 

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