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What Is a Black-Winged Stilt?

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  • Written By: J.M. Densing
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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A black-winged stilt, scientific name Himantopus himantopus, is a type of long legged bird commonly known as a wader. Its distinguishing marking, as suggested by the name, is the presence of black wings on a white body. Typically found near the shore in many areas of the world, it feeds by walking around in shallow water and catching prey close to the surface in its beak. It has a relatively long breeding season, and both parents incubate the eggs and care for the hatchlings.

The black-winged stilt, also known as the common stilt, is a large bird, usually growing to a length of 14 to 15 inches (36 to 39 cm). It has pinkish red, extremely long legs that are out of proportion with its body, which allow it to easily wade in the water while searching for food. Its body is covered in white feathers, except for the back of the neck, the wings, and back, which are black. Sometimes the top of the head is a grayish color, and it has reddish eyes. It has a very long, narrow, black beak, and its call sounds like a high pitched, yipping bark.

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In many areas of the world, the black-winged stilt is found primarily near the coast. Areas where it is commonly found include Australia, Central and South America, Africa, North America, and southern parts of Asia and Europe as well as some of the Pacific Islands like the Philippines. It tends to prefer a warmer climate and shallow water. Some examples of preferred habitats include mudflats, freshwater or saltwater marshes, and the shores of lakes and rivers.

As a social bird, the black-winged stilt usually lives in small colonies or groups. Its diet is composed mainly of aquatic insects, small crustaceans, worms, larvae, and mollusks. It feeds by using its long beak to capture prey near the surface of the water while it wades. It will occasionally dunk its head under the surface in the search for food as well.

Breeding season for the black-winged stilt varies quite a bit and can occur at any time from August to December. The birds typically build their nests on the ground very close to the water, and construct them of grasses, twigs, and roots. The female usually lays about three to four eggs, and both parents incubate the eggs and noisily defend the nest. Once the babies hatch, both parents care for them until they are able to live independently.

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