David Rayner Photography | Black-Winged Stilt

BLACK-WINGED STILT (Himantopus himantopus)

The Black-winged Stilt normally is a migratory bird often found in parts of Southern Europe. Winter migration is usually to Africa. Commonly birds are seen around smaller lakes of fresh or salt water. Photographs here were taken in the Algarve region of Portugal.

The birds have distinctively long pink legs with ‘black’ and white bodies. Males have black backs often with (outside of winter) substantial black colouring to the head and neck. Females have more of a brown tinge to their back and less black to the head/neck. However, as well as seasonal variations there are more casual differences within the sexes so identification is not always a simple matter. Young birds also have brownish backs.

The female usually lays four eggs on a lined nest on the ground or on vegetation. Both sexes assist with incubation. Experience in the Algarve suggests that the Black-winged Stilts do not always seek well hidden locations for their nests and will often vacate nests containing eggs to attend to other matters. Nevertheless, in the breeding season any hint of a predator threat leads to much distinctive noise. The ‘alert’ seems to serve as a general warning as well as an instruction to the young to take protective action. For example, in one photo the fledgling, on hearing the alert, is seen to have dropped to the ground motionless, no doubt in an attempt to blend with its underfoot surrounds. With a general alert, adults will often take to the air seemingly both to continue the warning and also to divert or threaten predators.

PLEASE NOTE: All photographs here of nests, eggs and incubation were taken from public tracks used by numerous (and often noisy) walkers and cyclists as well as motor cyclists, cars, vans etc.

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