The Black-winged Stilt, also known as the Himantopus himantopus, is a long-legged bird endemic to Africa, South America, Asia, Australia, and in small parts of North America. This is a wader that belongs to the Avocet and Stilt family. This family of bird species is made up of wading birds like Banded Stilt, Hawaiian Stilt, Pied Stilt, and Red-necked Avocet.
Its binomial name “Himantopus” came from a Greek word, which means “thong foot” or “strap food.” Back in the day, people call this bird species “Pied Stilt,” but that name is now given to a bird species that can only be found in Australia.
The Black-winged Stilt was first described in 1758 by Swedish zoologist and botanist Carl Linnaeus, who was then named the “father of modern taxonomy” due to his incredible, notable contributions in the field of taxonomy.
Since this bird widely occurs in a broad range and can be seen in most parts of the world, especially in warmer regions, the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed this species as Least Concern. The bird species’ general population has been stable ever since 1966.
Its seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: H. himantopus
The physical characteristics of a Black-winged Stilt
An adult Black-winged Stilt measures between 33 to 36 cm in length. It has long pink legs, long thin black bill, and a black-and-white plumage. A male Black-winged Stilt has a black back with a greenish moss, while a female Black-winged possesses a brown shade.
The bird’s underparts are pure white, while the upperparts are black. Its eyes are black. Usually, the top of its head changes color depending on the weather. On regular days, the head is white. During winter, a female bird tends to have less black on the head. During summer, a male bird will have more black on the head.
The distribution and habitat of Black-winged Stilts
This bird species is commonly found in shallow wetlands with scarce vegetation, including salt pans and ponds. Black-winged Stilts also frequent flooded areas along shallow lagoons, salt marshes, rivers, mangrove swamps, mudflats, flooded agricultural areas, evaporation ponds, and rice fields. It has been observed that some Black-winged Stilts prefer human-made habitats than the natural ones.
This bird species is found in different parts of the world. In Africa, Black-winged Stilets can only be seen in southern, eastern, central, and small parts of northern Africa.
The behavior of a Black-winged Stilt
During the breeding season, female Black-winged Stilts are the ones who choose males to mate with. A courtship display transpires when a female stretches out its neck and preens. The attracted male will mirror the same gesture, and then both of them will dip their bills in the water and preen the breast. This display intensifies as the pair become more aggressive before copulation. The male and female Black-winged Stilts will end the show with a slow run with their bills crossed.
This bird species nests in loose colonies, defending individual territories from intruders but joining another nesting Black-winged Stilts to combat threats. When a predator or human encroaches their territory, any birds that are not incubating will fly around the predator, flapping their wings violently and calling loudly. This display is deemed as a “popcorn display” by researchers. Black-winged Stilts can also exhibit distraction displays. They can pretend to be incubating birds, then flying to another area to repeat the same trick. When humans get close to their nests, these birds will attack humans from behind using their legs.
The female bird lays 2-5 eggs, each egg measuring for about 1.5-2 in length, and 1.2-1.3 in width. The eggs are yellowish olive to light drab with dark brown specks all over. Both parents will take responsibility for incubating the eggs, which will take about 24-29 before the eggs hatch. Likewise, the parents will take good care of the chicks once they are hatched.
The diet of Black-winged Stilts
This bird species spend most of the day wading and foraging in shallow waters when they do not preen, rest, or incubate eggs. They feed on small crustaceans, amphibians, snails, small frogs, and small fish. They also eat insects like brine flies, soldier flies, dragonflies, crickets, beetles, and larval mosquitoes.
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