Always graceful and almost impossibly elegant, the Black-winged Stilt is without a doubt one of Europe’s most beautiful and distinctive birds. Our recent visit to Fuente de Piedra gave us fantastic views of this species, and photographing this remarkable wader was once again one of the highlights of a busy birdwatching day…
The Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus is a summer visitor to western Europe, returning each year from wintering grounds in Africa to Mediterranean breeding grounds in the spring. They favour shallow coastal lagoons and lake margins, and can feed in fresh, brackish and salt water habitats.
The seeds of aquatic plants are occasionally taken but their diet is mainly insects and their larvae, picked expertly from the surface of the water with their long, needle-like, delicate bills.
They walk and run through shallow water – often leaning well forward to probe for food – but those incredibly long, pink legs give them an advantage over many waders and they sometimes wade out into deeper waters beyond the reach of other species.
The pristine, snow-white body and head and glossy black wings are pretty much unmistakable, and its ID is usually a straightforward affair. In the breeding season males develop a greater amount of darker, grey colouration on the head – note the plumage of the individual shown below – which they moult out gradually after the summer.
Black-winged Stilts nest on loose colonies close to the water’s edge, in a scrape on the ground or sometimes on a raised nest built from vegetation. Predators and other intruders that stray into their territory are mobbed noisily, and chased off with loud, grating “kreet…kreet” calls.
The Black-winged Stilt is just one of the many fascinating species to be found at Fuente de Piedra, and we’ll be returning to this wonderful reserve later in the season. If you would like more information on the birdwatching trips and holidays we run in southern Spain, click here…and for all our latest birding news, please keep reading our posts and trip reports!