Pied Avocets are probably one of the most popular waders in the UK, they are easy to identify, suitably uncommon to be interesting and of course they are the great come-back story among our native birds and immortalised as the RSPB symbol.
|Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta; adult, Snettisham RSPB, Norfolk, England.|
|Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta; juvenile. Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk, England.|
|Same bird as above but showing the characteristic feeding action, sweeping the curved bill through the water.|
|Adult Pied Avocet showing the striking wing pattern in flight. Martin Mere WWT, Lancashire, England.|
|Adult Pied Avocet feeding. Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk, England.|
|A group of Pied Avocets resting and feeding. Cley NNT, Norfolk, England.|
|Pied Avocets can be very aggressive towards other species, here one is chasing off a duck that got too close for comfort. This bord was observed chasing this duck for some time, even jumping on its back at one stage. Titchwell RSPB, Norfolk, England.|
|Avocets will swim like most waders if the water is too deep to wade. This one is a captive bird at WWT Slimbridge.|
|Andean Avocet Recurvirostra andina; Adult bird, Laguna Chaxa, Región de Antofagasta, Chile.|
|Adult Andean Avocet feeding using the characteristic sweeping motion typical of avocets. Laguna Chaxa, Región de Antofagasta, Chile.|
|A group of Andean Avocets asleep, looking very much like stilts. Laguna Chaxa, Región de Antofagasta, Chile.|
The American and Red-necked have coloured heads, orange and chestnut respectively. The Red-necked however is alone in keeping its colour all year, the American Avocet changes from orange to grey in winter.
|American Avocets Recurvirostra americana; These birds are showing a variety of plumages from the grey-headed non-breeding plumage through to full orange-coloured breeding plumage. Galveston Island Texas, USA.|
|Non breeding adult, LA River, Palm Beach, California, USA.|
|Adult. Galveston Island, Texas, USA.|
|Red-necked Avocets Recurvirostra navaehollandiae; Werribee, Victoria, Australia.|
|A slightly closer view with two Banded Stilts Cladorhynchus leucophalus; Werribee, Victoria, Australia.|
|Red-headed Avocets, Banded Stilt (2nd fro R) and Pied Stilts Himantopus leucocephalus (R); Werribee, Victoria, Australia.|
|Banded Stilts.; Rottnest Island, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.|
When considering the rest of the stilts taxonomy becomes an issue, we have tended in Wader Quest to be splitters rather than lumpers, this is in no way a scientific judgement on our part, merely a suitable way of recording what we have seen more easily, so, instead of there being just two himantopus stilt species in the world, Black and Black-winged, we recognise five, the Black winged being split into four with White-headed in Australasia, Black-necked in the Americas down to northern South America (including the hawaiian race) and White-backed south of that range.
The familiar stilt to us in Europe is the Black-winged Stilt which has a range that stretches across to Asia. Adult Black-winged Stilts have no black on their head and neck at all.
|Balck-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus; Pak Thale, Phetchaburi, Thailand.|
|Juvenile Black-winged Stilts. The bird on the left is younger than that on the right shown by the orange legs and darker crown and neck. (The out of focus bird behand is Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos.)|
|Juvenile Black-winged Stilt standing with adult sitting and two Pied Starlings Sturnus contra (L)|
In the americas there are two species or forms, in the north spreading from the USA where it is largely a summer visitor down to northern South America about half way down Brazil is the Black-necked Stilt. This species shows a black cap with a white flash above the eye contiguous with the hindneck which then merges into the black back.
|Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus; Galveston Island, Texas, USA|
|Black-necked Stilt adults. Salton Sea, California, USA.|
|White-backed Stilt Himantopus melanurus; Adult bird showing the white shoulders and crown. Tavares, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.|
|Same bird as above in flight.|
|Adult bird left and juvenile above right showing the dark grey crown of a young bird|
|Adult Black-necked Stilt. Pirapora, Minas Gerais, Brazil.|
|Adult White-backed Stilt paired with the above individual. Pirapora, Minas Gerais, Brazil.|
|Hybrid Black-necked/White-backed Stilt offspring number one. Does not show the white shoulder bar, but the dark juvenile crown is giving way to the white crown of the White-backed Stilt.|
|Hybrid Black-necked/White-backed Stilt offspring number two. Shows the white shoulder bar of White-backed, but retains the dark crown and white flash over the eye of Black-necked Stilt.|
|White-headed Stilt Himantopus leucocephalus; Adult, Broome Western Australia, Australia.|
|Adult stilt. We believe this to be a hybrid White-headed/Black Stilt. Although some male White-headed Stilts in New Zealand show extensive black on the sides of the neck they seldom form a thick black neck-band as in this individual.|
Here is a copy of the guide used in New Zealand to quantify the degree of hybridisation between the two stilts. We think the bird above is an example of D2 on the chart.
|Hybridisation chart between Black Stilt H. novaezelandiae and White-headed Stilt H. leucocephalus. |
Supplied by John Dowding.
|Adult Black Stilt Himantopus novazelandiae; Glentanner, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand.|
|Our first Black Stilt showing some white feathers. Were these retained juvenile feathers or as it a dreaded hybrid? Lake McGregor, Canterbury, South Island New Zealand.|
|Recently released juvenile Black Stilts. Glentanner, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand.|
|Juvenile Black Stilt. Glentanner, Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand.|
|The adult stilt reluctant to fly the coop.|