Thursday, June 5, 2014

Black-necked Stilt, Rowley



I've been so enjoying prolonged looks at the Black-necked Stilt in the Rowley salt 
pannes in the new, marsh grass sprouts.  The trio of black, white, pink to coral legs 
are a pleasant sight.  

I read in Pete Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion that he calls the Black-necked 
Stilt a "Marsh Poodle" and a "Coral-legged Water Strider".  Chris Leahy states in
The Birdwatchers Companion to North American Birdlife that "Stilt", of course, 
refers to these birds' extraordinary legs."

This delicate looking, long-strider wades in shallow waters, captures its prey - aquatic 
invertebrates and fish - with precision.  It consumes such fare as crawfish, brine flies, 
brine shrimp, beetles, water boatmen and tadpoles. In true stilt style, it pecks, snatches 
and plunges its head into the water in pursuit of the prey.  In some cases, they're fish
herders, trapping their prey in shallow waters.  They'll swim or dive under duress only.   

During breeding, they're strongly territorial and are particularly aggressive to chicks that 
are not their own.   When not breeding, Black-necked Stilts roost and forage in closely packed 
groups, often staying within a foot of each other.  As semi-colonial nesters, the Black-necked 
Stilts will participate collectively in anti-predator displays.  These displays are done by non-
incubating birds who fly up to mob predators.  In another display, all birds encircle the predator, 
flapping their wings rapidly while hopping up and down. 

I find them to be so careful and graceful in wetlands, rice fields and fields.  In the breeding season, 
they shriek and dive at predators.  As with other shorebirds, they'll feign a broken wing.

During hot weather, they cool their nests by saturating their belly feathers and carry this water to
their nests, sometimes making more than a hundred trips a day.  Given their fitness for nest duties,
this isn't as delicate a bird as it looks...
Good birding,
Sue

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