Charadrius himantopus Linnaeus, 1758, southern Europe. Forms superspecies with black stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae), sometimes considered conspecific. Races can be split into three groups (“nominate” race, “pied” race, and “black-necked” race) and 2–5 separate species recognized.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: Common stilt; French: Йchasse blanche; German: Stelzenlдufer; Spanish: Cigьeсuela Comъn.
13.7–15.7 in (35–40 cm), 5.8–7.2 oz (166–205 g). All have extraordinarily long, pink legs and long black, straight or slightly upcurved bills. Male’s back and wings black, sometimes with greenish sheen, white below, gray banding on white tail. Upper parts of female dullish brown. Juvenile resembles adult female. Races differ in head and hindneck plumage color, from mainly white to continuous black. Sexual dimorphism is more evident in some races.
H. h. himantopus Linnaeus, 1758, France and Iberia south to sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, east to central Asia and northern central China, Indochina, Taiwan, and Indian subcontinent. H. h. leucocephalus Gould 1837, Java east to New Guinea, south to Australia and New Zealand; winters north to Philippines, Greater Sundas, and Sulawesi. H. h. knudseni Stejneger, 1887, Hawaiian Islands. H. h. mexicanus P.L.S. Mдller, western and southern United States to Central America, West Indies, to southwestern Peru, eastern Ecuador, and northeastern Brazil. H. h. melanurus Vieillot, 1817, northern Chile and eastern central Peru through Bolivia and Paraguay to southeastern Brazil, and south to south central Argentina.
Temperate and tropical shallow wetlands. Usually breeds in freshwater, including lake edges, marshes, swamps, river-beds and flooded fields, also found in coastal salt marshes.
Gregarious, may feed in flocks of several thousand birds. Alarmed birds often head-bob. Call is a sharp monosyllabic “yep” or “kek.” Sometimes performs a high-leaping display with a “floating” descent, the significance of this performance isn’t clear. “Mob-display” also observed, whereby a few birds come together and behave in a mildly aggressive fashion for no apparent reason.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Diet strongly seasonal depending on habitat. Preys on various aquatic invertebrates including insects, small mollusks, crustaceans, and worms, as well as small fish and their eggs, and tadpoles. Active forager, employs a variety of methods to capture prey. Well-adapted to nocturnal vision, these birds will feed on windy, moonless nights.
Usually breeds in colonies of two to 50 pairs. Timing of breeding quite variable over range. Nests often widely spaced on ground or among grasses, sometimes a well-lined, floating mass of water weeds. Incubation of four eggs 22–26 days, by both sexes. Fledging 28–37 days.
Not globally threatened but controversial taxonomy calls for monitoring at subspecific level. Hawaiian subspecies knudseni is endangered, survival depends on predator control and protection of nesting habitat. As of 2001 only 1,800 birds. Nominate race was in decline in the 1800s, but has rebounded with population estimates now at minimum of 21,000 pairs.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
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