The Pied Stilt: 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 centimetres.
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 seen ducks do this when they have young. They thrash about in a lopsided manner as if one wing is broken.
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.
One of the delightful birds captured on our trip to Kaka Point, they really do look so awkward with their lanky long legs, but to watch them feeding and running along the sand they look elegant and graceful.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 April 2011, Kaka Point Southland New Zealand.
Powered Spring Stilts! – Pied Stilt
The Spur-winged Plover
Hey, I’ll Pose! – Pipit