ARTISTS AND BIRDS
by Marilyn and Keith Davis
"Passing Through Southern Utah"
Be on the look-out for the Black-necked Stilt. This migrating beauty is coming from Central America and parts of South America, on its way to shallow wetlands in the western United States. Black-necked Stilts wade in shallow waters for aquatic invertebrates and fish to eat. They peck, snatch, and are known to even herd the fish for an easy capture by plunging their heads into the water.
If you walk on the shores of a pond, look for the tracks they make in shallow water. The tracks could mean that Black-necked Stilts have visited the pond while passing through, or that they are near by. When they are migrating and not breeding, Black-necked Stilts roost and forage in groups. This is the reason for seeing several at a time while passing through southern Utah. Sewage ponds or flooded pastures are great habitats for these birds as well as any and every Golf Course Pond. The Black-necked Stilt has a black face, hind neck, and back. The throat and underparts are white. This shorebird has the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, except Flamingos. The legs are long, thin and red. The black bill is long, thin, and straight.
If you don’t find them here, you might plan a trip to northern Utah where you could see some of them in their breeding mode. They should stay in northern Utah until it is time to return south. Male and female Stilts cooperate with each other by choosing the nest site, and trading off the job of constructing the nest. Their nests are on the ground, but above water, such as small islands, or clumps of vegetation in or near water. When little ones are born, they are able to leave the nest within two hours. Black-necked Stilts are always a 'treat' to find. I hope you find one or five this spring. Let me know if you do.
Brenda Rusnell is the artist of the Black-necked Stilt in flight. If you have questions about birds, or the monthly activities for the Red Cliffs Audubon, call 435 673-0996. The public is always welcome. Our field trip and meeting schedule can be found here.