Pied Stilt

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Pied Stilt

 
Himantopus himantopus leucocephalus
 
Aka: Poaka, black-winged stilt, white-headed stilt
 
There are two species of stilt in New Zealand, the rare and endangered Black Stilt and the
widespread and common Pied Stilt. Pied stilts are native, but not endemic to New Zealand.
They are thought to have introduced themselves to NZ in about 1800. They are common
throughout coastal and inland waterways in most of New Zealand, except Fiordland, where
they are absent, and Stewart and the Chatham Islands, where they are rare. They are
waders, using their long legs and beaks to forage in shallow water for crustaceans, molluscs
and aquatic insects. You may also see them on wet pastures feeding on earthworms and
grass grubs.
 
Breeding season starts in August. Pairs may breed alone, but often congregate in loose
flocks. Courtship is stylized: the female assumes a motionless horizontal position, while the
male circles and flicks water at her. He then briefly mounts her. Afterwards he places a
wing across her back and crosses his bill over hers. Apparently, this whole performance
lasts only about 30 seconds, so you’ll need to stay sharp to observe it. Positioned on the
ground near water, their nests are minimalistic constructions made up of whatever materials
(i.e. sticks, grass, roots) are on hand. A clutch typically contains 2-5 eggs. Parents are
fiercely protective of their young, charging or dive bombing intruders or luring them away
while pretending to be injured. Pied stilts make a yapping noise not unlike a small dog.
 
The pied stilt has the longest legs in relation to its body of any bird in the world, enabling it to
forage in deeper water than most other waders. In flight their long thin red legs trail behind
them like ribbons.
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