Binomial name: Himantopus himantopus, Carolus Linnaeus, 1758
The black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is a widely distributed very long-legged wader in the avocet and stilt family (Recurvirostridae). The scientific name H. himantopus was formerly applied to a single, almost cosmopolitan species. It is now normally applied to the form that is widespread in Eurosiberia and Africa and which was formerly regarded as the nominate subspecies of Himantopus himantopus sensu lato. The scientific name Himantopus comes from the Greek meaning "strap foot" or "thong foot". Most sources today accept 2–4 species. It is sometimes called pied stilt, but that name is now reserved for the Australian species, Himantopus leucocephalus.
Adults are 33 – 36 cm long. They have long pink legs, a long thin black bill and are blackish above and white below, with a white head and neck with a varying amount of black. Males have a black back, often with greenish gloss. Females' backs have a brown hue, contrasting with the black remiges. In the populations that have the top of the head normally white at least in winter, females tend to have less black on head and neck all year round, while males often have much black, particularly in summer. This difference is not clear-cut, however, and males usually get all-white heads in winter.
Immature birds are grey instead of black and have a markedly sandy hue on the wings, with light feather fringes appearing as a whitish line in flight.
Taxonomy and systematics
The taxonomy of this bird is still somewhat contentious. It is one of five distinct species which were previously considered subspecies of H. himantopus. H. himantopus sensu lato, is made up of one species and 5–7 subspecies, and was sometimes referred to as common stilt. The name black-winged stilt refers to H. himantopus sensu stricto, with two subspecies H.h. himantopus from the Palearctic and H.h. meridionalis from the Afrotropical region.
Ecology and status
The breeding habitat of all these stilts is marshes, shallow lakes and ponds. Some populations are migratory and move to the ocean coasts in winter; those in warmer regions are generally resident or short-range vagrants. In Europe, the black-winged stilt is a regular spring overshoot vagrant north of its normal range, occasionally remaining to breed in northern European countries. Pairs have successfully bred in Britain in 1987, and after a 27-year hiatus, two instances of successful breeding in Southern England in 2014. 13 young were fledged in southern England in 2017.
These birds pick up their food from sand or water. They mainly eat insects and crustaceans.
The nest site is a bare spot on the ground near water. These birds often nest in small groups, sometimes with avocets.
The black-winged stilt is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds applies.