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Black-Necked Stilt

Black-Necked Stilt

The Black-Necked Stilt is a slender wading bird with long red legs. It forages along edges of fresh and saltwater marshes, ponds and tidal mudflats. The bird is 14” tall with a long black bill. Its legs are proportionately the longest of any North American bird. Feathers are black on top and white underneath. The eyes are crimson.

Black-Necked Stilts wade in shallow water, foraging on aquatic bugs and crustaceans. Their nickname, “yelper” or “lawyer,” is a description of their persistent mating sounds.

During courtship, the male pecks at the surface of water and preens his breast. The female stretches (“elongates ”), then the male circles the female and flicks water. Nests, built in small colonies by both parents, are shallow depressions on low mounds near water. They are lined with shell bits, pebbles, twigs and fish bones. When it is hot, parents will take turns shading eggs. They even soak their bellies to cool the eggs and have been known to do that more than a hundred times a day.

Adults distract predators from the nest by performing aerial displays or hitting the water with their breasts to make a sharp sound. They also will lead predators away from the nest by feigning injury or pretending to incubate eggs in a location nowhere near the actual nest.

The young hatch in 25 days. Like many shorebirds, chicks can run and forage immediately but are not able to fly for a month.

First published MCAS The Black Oystercatcher May 2014
Black-Necked Stilt photo Black Oystercatcher staff