Pied stilt Please view large. These birds look so awkward with their long legs and knees that bend backward, yet to watch them they are graceful and quick on their feet.
Slim and graceful, pied stilts or poaka (Himantopus himantopus) can be seen in their thousands at major estuaries and lakes during autumn and winter, before they fly to their breeding grounds in late winter–early spring. They are black on the crown, nape, back and wings, and white elsewhere. They weigh 190 grams and measure 35 centimeters. A self-introduced species that arrived relatively recently (perhaps around 1800) from Australia, the pied stilt has flourished in its new home – a favourable food supply was released when lowland forests and scrublands were converted to pasture. By 1993 there were around 30,000 birds.
Pied stilts are masterful at distracting enemies from the nest: They try to divert attention to themselves by simulating injury, shamming broken legs or wings in a most realistic manner. I have often watched one flying along, when suddenly it would give a loud cry of pain, and flutter to the ground in a lopsided manner as if one wing was broken. There it would flop along for a yard or so, and then lie down, flapping its wings and calling as if in agony. Perhaps it may stagger to its feet again, and then collapse with a drawn out cry of anguish and a last faint flick of the wings, and lie still. Pied stilts breed on South Island riverbeds and around New Zealand’s coast. They breed in colonies of up to 100 nests, which are mounds near water. They lay two to five greenish eggs from August (at coastal sites) or October (inland). Feeding on invertebrates and molluscs, they plunge and snatch underwater, or probe and scythe in wet mud.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 Jan. 2011 Maple Glen Southland NZ
Daddy longlegs Pied Stilt NZ
Backward Knees Pied Stilt NZ