South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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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, however.

Habitat: 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.

Diet: 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.

Behavior: 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.

Nesting: June and July

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

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

Migration: 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: American Avocet

Status: Has been expanding in range and in numbers in recent decades.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Black-legged Stilt

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Black-necked Stilt"

3) 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.


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.