Wading Into Spring

Black-necked stilt ~ Himantopus mexicanus


An elegant addition to the wetland scene, this stilt seemed less interested in foraging than in simply enjoying the sunshine and warmth as it walked across the flats at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge.

Like the American Avocet, stilts belong to the family Recurvirostridae, a Latin term meaning “bent bill.”  With legs longer in proportion to their bodies than any bird other than the flamingo, they’re made for walking; their partially webbed feet allow them to swim, but they rarely do.

Increasing numbers of these birds are beginning to appear in our wetlands to court, mate, and raise their families. Their elegant appearance and entertaining behavior ensure that you’ll be seeing more of them.


Comments always are welcome.

38 thoughts on “Wading Into Spring

  1. An elegant photo of an elegant bird. I know so very little about birds, because I’m overwhelmed by all the information out there that I just shut down. Thank you so much for introducing me to this beautiful creature!

      1. There’s a lot of truth in that. The knowledge doesn’t follow automatically, but there’s no question that pleasure, combined with curiosity, is a great motivator. And every bit of knowledge provides a foundation for the next — it’s fun to watch the construction process, too.

    1. This is an elegant bird. The females look much the same, although their dark feathers have more brown in them. They’re really vocal, and they have some interesting behaviors. It won’t be long until mating season, and I hope to capture some of those rituals, too.

    1. I’m glad you like him. Unfortunately, you probably won’t see one in your area; I just read that only seven sightings have been accepted in Michigan. You might see one in your travels, though, and they certainly are easy to identify — there’s nothing else that looks quite like them.

  2. Maybe the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge would be another great place to visit while we’re in Galveston. I’ve always wanted to see the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, but in spite of having been to Port A multiple times, we’ve never made it. Pity!
    Have a wonderful weekend,

    1. Since the Refuge lies just north of Galveston Island, across Christmas Bay, it would be an easy day to make the loop: going down the west end of the Island, crossing San Luis Pass, then heading north and east to the Refuge.

      There are some interesting spots along the way, including an out-of-the-way nature trail and boardwalk down to the beach, a couple of fabulous spots to bird-watch, and one of the best burgers in the world served up in a quaint (read: funky) establishment on Bastrop Bayou (near the refuge) by a woman about 85 years old — she just rebuilt her place after Hurricane Harvey.

      Both the wildflowers and the bird activity ought to be great by that time. If you’re inclined, we certainly could do it.

    1. That’s really interesting. I knew that the term head for toilet facilities on a boat came from the practice of going to the head of the ship in the early days of sail, but I didn’t know the word beakhead, from which head evolved. Figurehead, bowsprit, and prow are familiar, but not beakhead, and I never would have imagined a nautical connection for rostrum.

    1. And those legs are twice as long as shown in the photo — those are his knees, not his ankles!

      As for that question about the bill, I’ve been trying to figure it out. I found a source that says, “The world’s four avocets — genus Recurvirostra — have upturned bills; all the world’s stilts have straight bills.”

      That made me curious. If the bills are different, why are they lumped together? The same article says, “All members [of the family] are long-legged, long-billed, and all are pied black-and-white in at least one seasonal plumage.” I guess that’s enough similarity for the taxonomists. Apparently they’re still quarreling over precisely how many genera the stilts should be divided into, but that discussion’s way above me. I’ll just enjoy them!

    1. They’re a real pleasure to have around. For one thing, they tend to patrol the flats rather than lurking along the edges of the rushes and reeds like the coots and grebes, or hunkering down in their midst, like the ibis. That means they’re as easy to photograph as they are enjoyable to watch.

    1. When they’ve paired up for mating, they’re doubly elegant and pretty. The female looks much the same as this male, but she has just enough brown in her feathers that the two can be easily distinguished. I’m looking forward to catching some of their antics this spring.

    1. Thanks, Kayti. Sometimes I think their voice is larger than they are because of their small size and apparent delicacy. Strangely, it can be both loud and musical: an elegant combination in its own way.

    1. Now that you say that, I remember reading about another creature who utilizes the same double-sided technique. I can’t remember what it was, but I’m glad you pointed that out. The ways that creatures adapt to their environments in order to protect themselves is pretty darned amazing.

  3. Nice looking bird there. I like its long legs and pointed beak. What I’m unsure of is its name. Why is it called “black-necked” when its neck looks so white to me? Perhaps it’s the *back* of its neck that’s black, hmm??

    1. See there? Your powers of deductive reasoning are fully functional — it is the back of the neck that’s black. When I post some other photos of these little beauties, you’ll be able to see it. And a look at the full length of its legs can be even more impressing — you’re only seeing from the knees up, here.

    1. They’re such fun to watch. You have a relative down there — the black-winged stilt. It’s easier to remember the scientific name for yours, since the same word is used for genus and species: Himantopus himantopus. I don’t know why that sounds so funny to me, but it does. Perhaps it’s the echoes of this.

      1. Last night I arrived at the coast so today I’ll be out exploring the wildlife. Yes, that name is hilarious!

    1. How about that? I just “discovered” your black-winged stilt in the process of replying to eremophila, just above. It’s not only the flowers that have cousins scattered all over the world. I like your stilt, too. The variations are just that — variations on a very nice theme.

      1. I was looking for a good shot of our Black-winged stilt to post, but it seems I have only images taken from above walking the high boardwalk in our zoo’s Great Aviary. No good shots from the side.

  4. Bring them on! This is a bird I have only seen a few times, and I do love them! I like the way the water is pooling around its legs here – have a good Sunday, Linda!

    1. I liked the rippling water, too. I sometimes can spot the subtle difference between a bird that’s just walking through the flats and one that’s stirring up the bottom to find food. I think that’s what this one was doing. I’m hoping to see a young one this year. As cute as the adults are, the babies I’ve seen in photos are even cuter.

    1. There’s nothing like a combination of open windows and bird song at dawn to signal spring. Lovely as the flowers are, the birds have their own charm. I’m not sure whether the female mallard who’s been quacking for several days now is the same one who was around during the past two years, but if she isn’t, she’s just as insistent. The stilts are insistent, but not quite as loud.

  5. Wading birds are fun to watch on their long elegant legs. You could call this piece “Study in Black, White and Blue.” I like the starkly delineated bird against the soft blue of the water. It has such lovely eyes!

    1. That little white patch just above the eye adds to its charm, I think. It gives it an air of insouciance. That plain blue background took a little time to compose. When I most often see them wading, the water’s filled with plant life, both old and new, and it’s not always possible to separate them from that complex background. Here? It worked beautifully, and I’m glad you like the result.

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