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Black-necked Stilt

Himantopus mexicanus

Length: 14 to 15 inches Wingspan: 26 inches Seasonality: Migrant / Summer
ID Keys: Extremely long dark pink legs, black upperparts, white underparts, long needle-like bill.

Black-necked Stilt - Himantopus mexicanusIn relation to body size, the Black-necked Stilt has some of the longest legs of any species of bird.  As with some other species of shorebirds, they may perform the "wounded bird" display to lure potential predators away from nesting sites.  Black-necked Stilts have been quick to colonize artificial water bodies which suit their breeding needs, and have been expanding in range and in numbers in recent decades.  They are still primarily uncommon migrants in South Dakota.

According to some classification systems, Black-necked Stilts are considered a Western Hemisphere subspecies of the broader "Black-winged Stilt" (Himantopus himantopus), which is found in every continent except for Antarctica. North American classifications systems, however, treat it as its own species.


Found in marshes, shallow expansive vegetated edges of ponds and lakes, and shallow bodies of water.  Nests on open ground near water, preferably with very little vegetation.


Primarily feeds on insects, insect larvae, crustaceans, and mollusks.  Will occasionally feed on tadpoles, small frogs, and very small fish, as well as aquatic plant material.


Does most of its foraging by wading in shallow water and plucking food items from the water's surface, or by grabbing food items below the surface in shallow water.  Will also forage on mudflats and shorelines.


June and July for their rare breeding attempts in South Dakota. The nest of a Black-necked Stilt is a shallow depression on the ground, lined with bits of grass, other vegetation, or shells and pebbles.  The female lays between 3 and 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them. The young hatch after about 24 days.

Interactive eBird Map:

 Click to access an interactive eBird map of Black-necked Stilt sightings


Loud pawwh or pleek often repeated for long periods of time.


Summers in widely scattered locations throughout the U.S. and extreme southern Canada.  Winters near the Gulf Coast, the California coast, and southward.

Similar Species:

If seen well, Black-necked Stilts are unlike to be confused with another bird species, with their unique plumage and long-legged appearance. However, in less than ideal viewing conditions they could potentially be confused with the following:

American Avocet 18 - Recurvirostra americana American Avocet 36 - Recurvirostra americana American Avocet 19 - Recurvirostra americana
American Avocet
American Avocet
American Avocet


Black-necked Stilt numbers plummeted by the early 21st century, due to hunting pressures and habitat loss. However, they have been expanding in numbers and range in recent decades in North America, are found across a very broad geographic area, and are common in parts of that range. The IUCN considers the Black-necked Stilt to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

  1. BirdWeb - Black-necked Stilt
  2. WhatBird - Black-necked Stilt
  3. Audubon Guide - Black-necked Stilt

Photo Information:

July 27th, 2009 - Bear River Bird Refuge, Utah - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Black-necked Stilt photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Range Map for the Black-necked Stilt
South Dakota Status: Rare migrant.  Rare summer breeder, with a handful of breeding records in the state.

Additional Black-necked Stilt Photos
 Black-necked Stilt 1 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 2 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 3 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 4 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 5 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 6 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 7 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 8- Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 9 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 10 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 11 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 12 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 15 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 16 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 17 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 18 - Himantopus mexicanusBlack-necked Stilt 19 - Himantopus mexicanus