Monday, October 17, 2016

Black-necked Stilts at Merced National Wildlife Refuge

Black-necked Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus) are fairly common in California's Great Central Valley, a familiar little shorebird of shallow wetlands.  They are named for their distinctive black and white markings, though perhaps even more striking are their long, bright red-to-pink legs.  Black-necked Stilts are year-round residents of the Valley as well as the Central and Southern California coast, ranging farther north and inland into other western states during the summer months.
Stilts are designed for life in the shallows; their long legs allow them to wade into the water in order to find food, aquatic invertebrates, such as crawfish, beetles and brine shrimp, as well as small vertebrates like tadpoles and fish.  Using their long bills, stilts snatch their prey from the water.
Feeding behavior of the Black-necked Stilt (Himanoptus mexicanus)
Stilts nest on the ground, on soft substrate near water, where the male and female take turns excavating a small depression in which the female will lay her eggs; some nests are lined with grasses while others are not.

If you get a chance to venture out to one of our local wetlands this fall, keep an eye on the shallows and watch for these beautiful shorebirds.

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