Black-necked Stilt

Himantopus mexicanus

A striking black-and-white bird with very long, thin red legs, the Black-necked Stilt is found along the edges of shallow water in open country.

Interesting Information

  • Five species of rather similar-looking stilts are recognized in the genus Himantopus. They have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos.

  • The Hawaiian subspecies of Black-necked Stilt has the black of its neck reaching much farther forward than the mainland forms. Habitat loss and hunting led to the decline in its numbers. It uses primarily the few freshwater wetlands found on the Hawaiian Islands.


Adult Description

  • Size: 35-39 cm (14-15 in)

  • Wingspan: 71 cm (28 in)

  • Weight: 136-220 g (4.8-7.77 ounces)

  • Large shorebird.

  • Black face, hind neck, and back.

  • White throat and underparts.

  • Very long, thin red legs.

  • Long, thin, straight black bill.

  • Wings all black.

  • Rectangular white spot above eye.

  • White forehead.

  • White wedge up back visible in flight.

  • Eyes red.

Sex Differences

Sexes similar, but female with brown tinge to back and slightly shorter legs.


Similar to adult, but with scalloped pattern on back and a white trailing edge to wing.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Shallow fresh and saltwater wetlands, including salt ponds, rice fields, shallow lagoons, and mangrove swamps.


Feeds in shallow water, while wading or swimming. Locates food by sight and snaps it up, sometimes sticking head completely underwater, or swipes the head and bill through water.


Feeds on tadpoles, mollusks, water beetles and other aquatic insects, snails, small fish, flying insects, and seeds.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Recurvirostridae
Genus: Himantopus
Species: Himantopus mexicanus
    Subspecies: Himantopus mexicanus knudseni
  Himantopus mexicanus mexicanus

Similar Species

American Avocet has reddish or gray head, long gray legs, white in the wings, and an upturned bill.

Bird Sound

Call high-pitched whistling or piping.

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution


Black-necked Stilt

Up close and personal