Thursday, June 10, 2010

Black-necked Stilt - maybe some things you didn't know

Black-necked Stilts are eye-catching birds with their contrasting black and white on those long bubble-gum red legs!  I look forward to their arrival every year.  The first one I ever saw was at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon back in July of 2005 when I was really just starting to get passionate about birding.  I used to see several dozen at each visit to the Gilbert Water Ranch in Arizona.  There they can be seen pretty much year round.  According to my eBird records, I once saw around 100 on one day there.  In Idaho, I see them regularly in the right habitat from April through about mid-September.  My highest tally in Idaho is around 30 birds at one location.

Prior to taking these photos, I never noticed the red eye or the brown back on some Black-necked Stilts.  These last couple of weeks I had been assuming that the stilt pictured above was a first-year bird that had not yet turned completely black, but I was wrong.  Females have the brown backs and males have black backs as shown in the photo below.  I must have been photographing a breeding pair.

Reading Paulson's Shorebirds of North America (which features a handsome male Black-necked Stilt on the cover) and the field guide Birds of Western North America: a Photographic Guide I also read that males during breeding season may acquire a pinkish tinge to the breast...and looking at the photo below, I can kind of see that.  Now I regret not paying more attention to them in the field.  Alone, or with a group, it has always been "oh, there's a Black-necked Stilt" and I neglected to enjoy the finer details.  Well, that is one thing photography is helping me do is to look harder and longer at even my common birds.

I did a post awhile back on Black-necked Stilt migration patterns using eBird sighting maps.  Click here if you are interested.

1 comment:

  1. I love black-necked stilts and American Avocets. I saw my first ones in Utah near the Great Salt Lake. What a thrill it was. They still continue to delight me! I did not know about the brown backs of the females or the pinkish tinge thing with the breeding males. Thanks for the education! Nice captures!