Saturday, May 1, 2021

Black-necked Stilt

eBird is a large part of Erika and my birding. This computer application keeps track of the birds we see, even filling in the counties in which we see our quarry. The app is able to alert us when a bird we have not seen has been reported by other observers, and can give you directions on where to look. (eBird is also a tool for “citizen science,” although those words seem oxymoronic.) Erika and I are not good at chasing rare birds, but yesterday we did search for two Black-necked Stilts reported from the Nisqually national wildlife refuge—only 12 miles from home. Stilts have a patchy distribution across the western hemisphere. They can be tolerably common in eastern Washington, but, inexplicably, there are only several dozen records for the western part of the state. Finding rare birds at the refuge is often not difficult—all you have to do is look for the abundant birders.
Black-necked stilts wade in freshwater wetlands in search of crawfish, aquatic insects, snails, small fish, and frogs. Robinson et al. (2020) do not specifically mention dragonfly larvae, but I am sure stilts would also find them tasty. 
Stilts use a few hunting methods. This stilt plunged its head under water. This strike was successful, but I am not sure of the prey’s identity. Stilts can hunt by simply walking along with their heads and necks under water. Other stilts peck prey form the surface of the water or off muddy shores. Others snatch prey that attempt to fly away from the birds. Usually stilts find their prey by sight, but they can also hunt using tactile methods. Stilts can also hunt using scythe-like sweeps, swiping their bills sideways through the water or mud.

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