Monday, April 16, 2012

Featured Feathered Friend: Baby Edition! - Black-necked Stilts

Nothing says springtime is here more than the sight of baby birds! In the past few years, we have been lucky to see many different types of baby birds in many different stages. In one year, we saw the chicks of  about 14 different species of birds! So to celebrate spring babies, I'm going to do a series of Featured Feathered Friends highlighting some of the precious little chicks we've seen over the years.

Male Black-necked Stilt on a nest of in the grasses

Female Black-necked Stilt sleeping on a nest

Nesting Female Black-necked Stilt

To start it off, I'm presenting the Black-necked Stilt. These elegant, tall, dark and white birds are quite striking when you see them. They somehow support their slightly chunky bodies on the thinnest, tallest pink legs! I'm not quite sure what came first - the name of the bird or the name of the walking poles, but you really can't forget the name of this bird once you've seen one.

Female Black-necked Stilt gives a great look at her 4 eggs

Look at how those legs bend!

Male Black-necked Stilt incubating eggs

We first saw these nesting Black-necked Stilts at Green Cay Wetlands in Palm Beach County, Florida in mid-May, 2010. One fantastic thing about birds at Green Cay is how close they let people get to them. These stilts nested only feet from the boardwalk and allowed great, intimate views of their nest, and yes, their eggs! Here you can see both a male and female incubating - the male having the completely black back and the female having a brown back. These stilts built clumpy nests on tufts of grass or dead vegetation on the mud, laying about 4 light brown, dark-speckled eggs.

How many chicks can you spot?!

More legs than body =)

When we went back about 2 weeks later, there were babies! The Black-necked Stilt chicks are some of the cutest little babies you will ever see. They are mostly tan speckled with black on top and white underneath. Their coloration served perfectly as camouflage in the wetland as they ran across the muddy marsh with dried vegetation all around. And even as little ones, they already have very long legs, which are yellow first, in proportion to their little bodies. You can see they start off with big feet!

Mommy and 2 babies

Two adorable Black-necked Stilt chicks

But beware if you are a bird or any other animal getting too close to the Stilt babies. The parents will swoop and practically attack you in defense of their chicks. Here you can see how one adult was not at all pleased with this Tri-colored heron near his babies. He swooped and swooped for minutes while loudly sounding off an alarm call.

Black-necked Stilt Defending his little ones

Family Photo - Mom and Dad and the 3 kids

What a pleasure it was to witness the nesting of the Black-necked Stilt as well as the chicks. We saw how even these long-legged birds can collapse and bend their legs to gracefully sit on a nest and incubate their precious eggs. And the babies were very independent and running right alongside and behind mommy and daddy foraging in their footsteps. Ahhhh... They're almost too cute for words!

Just me and my shadow

He's got big shoes to fill!


  1. What a fabulous post! Those chicks are some of the cutest I've ever seen! Your photos are outstanding!

    1. Thanks very much, Tammy! They make me swoon every time I look at these pics.

  2. Well done Maureen. Black-Necked Stilts are great birds. They walk that fine line between elegance and fragility so well. Despite their extreme gangly-ness, they're ever-graceful.

    I'd never seen the chicks before. As you say, they're unsurpassably cute. That last picture reminds me of those walker machines from Star Wars--you know, the ones that they use to fight to little bears. I guess these chicks are a bit less deadly...for now.

    It's nice to see the Stilts with some prettier habitat too. Here in AZ, they're found in large numbers, but always around mucky ponds, water reclamation sites, etc. It's less scenic, and it's the price one pays for urban birding.

    I'm looking forward to this series and the rest of your neonatal birds.

    1. Thanks, Laurence! You describe them so well. And I know exactly what you mean about those Star Wars thingies. And this area is actually a managed wetland that was constructed as a way of naturally filtering water, or something like that. Luckily the South Florida plants love it, and all the birds and other critters! So it makes for some great scenery.

  3. Such a great series of shots! They are so tiny. It's amazing they survive but we see the stilts every so often here. They are pretty skittish birds.

  4. I forgot how cute the babies are! Great shots - thanks for sharing!

  5. The bird legs are so gangly and odd looking