Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus is a resident bird for us in Andalucía. Our birds are joined in the autumn and for the winter by northern birds, numbers can vary from year to year, but most migrants tend to be confined to coastal areas and salt pans.
An elegant species and part of the avocet/stilt family Recurvirostridae. Always a challenge to sex these waders, the amount of black on the head and neck can be present in both sexes, but the safest way is the male a deep black back, whilst the female has a dark brown hue that contrast sharply with the black remiges. Immature birds are much easier with being a pale brown on the wing contrasting with the grey back.
Our resident birds are widespread throughout the region, occupying coastal and inland wetlands, salt pans, lakes and ponds (lagunas) and even common on lowland rivers. They can be highly opportunistic, breeding on temporary pools after heavy rains and areas where high water tables produce sporadic lagoons.
Availability of food sources are important to their distribution throughout the region, they feed mostly insects and crustaceans, the liming attis shrimp Dugastella valentina an important food source particularly on river breeding grounds. Wherever you find these wonderful waders they attract your attention, even if they are somewhat noisy during the breeding season.
Bird of the month series December 2019.
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