Bird’s ID – Black-necked Stilt
The Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) is a locally abundant shorebird of American wetlands and coastlines. It is found from the coastal areas of California through much of the interior western United States and along the Gulf of Mexico as far east as Florida, then south through Central America and the Caribbean to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. The northernmost populations, particularly those from inland, are migratory, wintering from the extreme south of the United States to southern Mexico, rarely as far south as Costa Rica; on the Baja California peninsula it is only found regularly in winter.
Adults have long pink legs and a long thin black bill. They are white below and have black wings and backs. The tail is white with some grey banding. A continuous area of black extends from the back along the hindneck to the head. There, it forms a cap covering the entire head from the top to just below eye-level, with the exception of the areas surrounding the bill and a small white spot above the eye. Males have a greenish gloss to the back and wings, particularly in the breeding season. This is less pronounced or absent in females, which have a brown tinge to these areas instead. Otherwise, the sexes look alike.
The black-necked stilt is found in estuarine, lacustrine, salt pond and emergent wetland habitats; it is generally a lowland bird but in Central America has been found up to 8,200 ft (2,500 m) above sea level and commonly seen in llanos habitat in northern South America. It is also found in seasonally flooded wetlands. Use of salt evaporation ponds has increased significantly since 1960 in the USA, and they may now be the primary wintering habitat; these salt ponds are especially prevalent in southern San Francisco Bay. At the Salton Sea, the black-necked stilt is resident year-round.
The black-necked stilt forages by probing and gleaning primarily in mudflats and lakeshores, but also in very shallow waters near shores; it seeks out a range of aquatic invertebrates – mainly crustaceans and other arthropods, and mollusks – and small fish, tadpoles and very rarely plant seeds. Its mainstay food varies according to availability; inland birds usually feed mainly on aquatic insects and their larvae, while coastal populations mostly eat other aquatic invertebrates.