Black-Necked Stilt

Himantopus mexicanus
Range Map

The Black-Necked Stilt is a rather tall shorebird, with leg length proportional to their body, second only to flamingos. These birds range from Argentina nearly to the Canadian border in western USA. We can find them in open marshes, mudflats, and along fresh or saltwater shorelines and adjacent shallows, where insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and any small creature is fair game.

In Southern California, I’ve met Black-Necked Stilts nesting near tern colonies with American Avocets. When disturbed, these birds can be quite vocal and they can be persistent in their attempts to drive away perceived threats, even mobbing predators.

During my travels in the Western USA, I’ve found these birds pretty easily wherever they’ve been present. Everything in their behavior makes them conspicuous, from their long-legged gait while foraging in open shallow water, to their quarrelsome territorial ways, but especially their loud vocalizations. Their calls echo from distant locations, even if they are unseen.

Modern science recognises three subspecies of Black-Necked Stilt:

  • H. m. mexicanus lives in North America, the West Indies, Central America, northern South America, and the Galapagos Islands.
  • H. m. knudseni lives on the Hawaiian Islands.
  • H. m. melanurus lives in southern South America.

Aside from the Southern California birds, I’ve encountered Black-Necked Stilts as far north as Malheur in southeastern Oregon, as far east as Texas Port Aransas (Texas), and as far south as Isla Clarion in the Revillagigedo Archipelago.

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