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Black-necked Stilt, Jared Hobbs
Photo © Jared Hobbs

Photo: Jared Hobbs
Breeding evidence - Black-necked Stilt
Breeding evidence

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Black-necked Stilt
Himantopus mexicanus

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
19 - 1100 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
2 2 1 0
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
BBS trends are not available for this species

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range The Black-necked Stilt is a conspicuous and easily recognized shorebird with striking black and white plumage and long red legs. It was previously known mostly as a rare spring vagrant to British Columbia, but since 1990 it has occurred more frequently and now breeds occasionally. The Black-necked Stilt is widespread but patchily distributed across North, Central, and South America (Robinson et al. 1999). Its breeding range in North America is expanding to the north. Since 1977, breeding has been reported from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario (Gratto-Trevor et al. 2011; Environment Canada 2011).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat Prior to the Atlas, the Black-necked Stilt was known to have bred in only three locations in British Columbia. A pair nested successfully at T'Kumloops Marsh in the Thompson Valley in 2002 and again in 2004, and single pairs nested unsuccessfully at Alki Lake in the Okanagan Valley in 2005 (British Columbia Conservation Data Centre 2005, Tomlinson 2005) and the north end of Osoyoos Lake in 2006 (Cecile 2007). The Atlas yielded breeding evidence from three locations. Breeding was confirmed only on the Saanich Peninsula, where two pairs nested successfully at two adjacent sites in 2012, fledging three and four chicks per pair. Probable breeding was recorded in the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench (a pair at Elizabeth Lake in 2008 and again in 2012), and possible breeding was recorded in the Chilcotin (one bird in suitable breeding habitat). Given that this is a conspicuous and readily-identified bird that forages in open ponds, the paucity of records is considered an accurate measure of its rarity and occasional breeding in the province. Since the Atlas surveys, a pair bred successfully at Alki Lake again in 2014.

The North American population is increasing in parts of its range, including an expansion into southern Canada (Andres et al. 2012). Most records of the Black-necked Stilt in British Columbia are of one or two birds, with high counts of 13-19 birds on rare occasions (Campbell et al. 1990; British Columbia Conservation Data Centre 2005). There are only six nesting attempts known for British Columbia (see above). The Atlas confirms that the Black-necked Stilt is a rare spring vagrant and occasional nesting species in the province.

The Black-necked Stilt forages in shallow freshwater ponds, flooded fields, and temporary pools; taking crustaceans, insects, and occasionally small fish or amphibians. It is often found in the same water bodies as the American Avocet. Most records in British Columbia before and during the Atlas were from warm southern lowlands, with fewer sightings at higher elevations such as in the Chilcotin region.

Conservation and Recommendations If the increasing North American trend continues, we should expect more frequent occurrence and breeding in British Columbia. The breeding locations known for British Columbia have each been used only once or twice. Consequently, it is premature to suggest management options, although management of Alki and Robert lakes in Kelowna to enhance breeding by the American Avocet (see that species account) might also encourage breeding by the Black-necked Stilt.

Acknowledgements Thanks to David Fraser, Ann Nightingale and Leah Ramsey for providing details of the 2012 Saanich Peninsula breeding records and other sightings of this species.

Alan E. Burger

Recommended citation: Burger, A.E. 2015. Black-necked Stilt in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [14 Apr 2024]

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