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An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, the Black Necked Stilt Chick

Jun 22, 2017 01:07AM ● By Linda Heath

An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Black Necked Stilt Chick!

The Black-Necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) chick.

Here is an easy one for you to identify! You’ll have a hard time mistaking the Black-Necked Stilt with another bird when you see it. Just look for a delicate looking, slender, black and white bird with remarkably long, skinny, neon pink legs (which bend backward at the knee instead of 

forward). You will have found the Black-Necked Stilt!  It is a fun bird to watch, very vocal, and very aggressive during nesting season when it flies about trailing its long legs and attacking everything in sight.

Only a Flamingo has longer legs in relation to its body size than the Black-Necked Stilt.  Aside from the 6 ½” pink legs, the Black-Necked Stilt also has a needle-like black bill and red eyes.  The Stilt has a black and white head, a white forehead, and a rectangular white spot above the eye and its head is topped off with a black cap.  The back of the neck, back, and under wings are black; the rump, tail, throat, breast and under parts are white. It has partially webbed feet. Adult females and juveniles have brownish-black backs, but the juvenile’s feathers have pale edges.  The juvenile’s neck and under parts are white. Downy young are olive colored and dull white with black spots on their backs.

The Black-Necked stilt is found in shallow fresh and brackish open wetlands, mud flats, pools, and grassy marshes throughout the southern and Western United States, south to Peru. It migrates moderate distances, often congregating on flooded fields.

The Black-Necked Stilt feeds by sight and not by touch; it usually feeds on the water’s surface while standing.  Sometimes it will put its head completely underwater or will swing its head and beak back and forth like the Avocet. The Stilt eats brine flies, crayfish, tadpoles snails, shrimp, some seeds and a few fish. It has webbed feet so it is able to swim but it rarely does.  It has a rapid flight with its wings trailing far beyond the tail.  Its call is a “kit, kit, kit” and is mainly used for alarm or when mobbing predators.

The Stilt’s mating ritual starts with the female leaning forward and stretching her neck out which lets the male know that she is ready to mate.  The male will circle around her making pecking motions on the surface of the water.  After mating, the male will drape his wing over the female 

and they will cross bills.  The Stilt is social and nests in colonies.  The nest is located in a marsh.  It is a slight depression in a ground, lined with grass and twigs.  The female lays 3-4 brown spotted eggs.  Both parents incubate the eggs and aggressively defend their area while nesting.  The new born chicks are able to leave the nest in about 2 days but they stay close to their parents for protection.

There are chicks in our own Tijuana Estuary now. Look for them near the second pond while on a leisurely walk there. Until next week, happy birding!


 If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link:

Bryan Brillhart Photography or Bird of the Week


Bryan Brillhart


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