This week I want to honour a wader which is common to the shores of Australia, South America and South Africa, Indonesia, New Zealand and other countries south of the Equator. The Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is probably one of our most common waders, and one of the few that does not migrate to the north each year to breed. It breeds in Australia and as my book explains, has a friendly foraging relationship of comradery with the Red-necked Avocet a purely Australian wader which also breeds locally, but more inland.
The Black-winged Stilt is one of my most favourite birds to photograph because it is such a perfect bird for reflection photos, which I love to take., as you can see.
This is one of the few birds that I have photographs of that follow this bird from egg to its adult stages. The Black-winged Stilt feeds on aquatic insects and small molluscs and crustaceans. They feed in the shallows of freshwater lakes and wetlands including brackish marshes. They are a flock bird and can be quite noisy with their bird-bark-like-call which usually warns of alarm or encroachment of territory, as they are very protective of their space when nesting and raising young.
Let’s start with the eggs. The Black-winged Stilt has a clutch of 3 to 4 eggs and like many bird eggs they are dappled as you can see below. The female has a simple shallow hollow with some soft grass as the nest. Note below how she bends her very long legs, her knees fold backwards, the opposite to our human knees. This allows her to tuck her large feet comfortably under her body.
When the chicks are finally born after 22 to 24 days incubation. Most birds would be starting to nest by now or be about to as Spring arrives. The chicks begin walking about and fending for themselves soon after. You can hear the parent warning off potential trouble as we walk by.
As the juveniles start maturing and begin looking like the adult they lack the black neck but sport a black eye marking for their first years. As they mature their brown plumage becomes black, the eye marking lessons and disappears and the black neck stripe forms.
In this very rare and unique image one can see four different stages of maturity for the Black-winged Stilt. See if you can work out the stages of maturity.
When these birds fly they tuck their long lanky legs behind and fly quite majestically.
Finally the bird matures to an adult and at low tide and around the lake edges it pokes its long sharp beak into the water seeking out marine insects and small crustaceans. You can hear its monotonous call as it forages.
As I have shared earlier the Black-winged Stilt though not endemic to Australia has formed a friendly alliance with Australia’s Red-necked Avocet, where both birds are often found forading beside each other and their flocks mixed. Here is a candid moment which is seldom experienced where the larger Avocet runs into the Stilt and moves it on.
So there we have it, a beautiful bird with beautiful reflective properties for photographers, in the still shallows. If you are in Sydney and you would like to see both these birds together, visit Sydney Olympic Park and walk to the large lake with the bird hide, past the mangrove walks. What we learn from these two birds is that you can be quite different in appearance and culture yet live and feed in the same areas and have peaceful and caring relationships. This is God’s best for us all in this multi-cultural age, an example set by these birds.
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” – Romans 12:16
During the last decade, Sydney has become one of the most multicultural cities in the world (Australia the 2nd most multicultural nation) and with that many of us Anglo-Saxon Aussies from country areas, such as myself, found it a challenge to adjust to this change. As I currently work with people from all over the world, warm caring family people, I have learned to appreciate them in a much more understanding and loving manner, enjoying many warm friendships. Sometimes we need to reflect on our attitude to those who are different from us.
Have a wonderful week birding!
As I approach my final weeks of full-time work in Immuno Haematology, negotiations are continuing as managers discuss the possibility of continuing my employment part-time. My wife and I seek God’s best for my future, and wait for him to open or close the door. The future always remains in the reliable hands of the One who ‘knows the end from the beginning’ of all things, and always works everything in life for our good. The proposed bird guide work and 2nd book writing are both on hold till this is resolved, your prayers are valued.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
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NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018