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Bird of the Week

Bird of the Week: Black-Winged Stilt

This bird has it all figured out.

This week’s Bird of the Week is called the black-winged stilt, and when you get a look at it you pretty quickly understand why it is called that. So let’s do that, because the best thing about this bird is that it is highly enjoyable to look at.

Credit: Antje Schultner

Oh my god!! I love when a name tells you everything you know, and “black-winged stilt” really does that. It has black wings and what would you call those towering, death-defying legs except stilts?? (Well, Rafi called them “gams” and the Daily Mail would likely refer to them as “slim pins,” but they’re both weirdos.) The black-winged stilt hits the sweet spot for me, in that it is both goofy and glorious. Another picture yes!!!

Credit: Hari K Patibanda

Unglaublich! That’s German for incredible. It’s also my way of saying that Germany is one of the places where the black-winged stilt can be found. In fact, it can be found on pretty much every continent but Antarctica. We’re not talking pigeon territory, but this bird roams.

The biggest question you probably have about the black-winged stilt is “what’s with the legs?!” Let me turn things over to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (emphasis mine):

Wading birds use their long legs to enter deep water, whilst keeping their body above the surface to look for food. Stilts have enormously long legs, which help them to find food that other wading birds of their size can’t reach. Long-legged birds often perch on one leg while resting, helping to keep them warm as long legs lose heat rapidly.

Stilts, you wily bastards! These birds have it all figured out. They don’t have to swim around like some common duck, frantically locating fish underwater. They hang out above the surface, surveying the scene, and then they scoop up their favored insects and, from time to time, crustaceans. Here’s a great video of a stilt doing that.

The stilts are also big on family. From Beauty of Birds:

Breeding birds form strong, monogamous pair bonds. Both participate in constructing the nests, incubating the eggs and raising the young.

Finally, some dads stepping up! Here’s a very cute video of a stilt doing some incubating. Look at how the legs bend out—insanity:

And here is a video of stilts doing very elaborate mating rituals, and then standing around making noise. The YouTube commenters are enraptured by this video. “I love your videos, they show us birds that we may never have gotten to see. All glory to God !!” says one commenter. That’s right, the black-winged stilt is endorsed by God. I don’t make the rules:

So, to conclude, we have a bird with great legs, a happy home life, supremacy in the water, and a perch in nearly every corner of the globe. The black-winged stilt has got it made! When I asked Caitlin whether I should do this bird or another one this week, she said, “as the wife of a giant, I gotta go with the stilt,” and you know what, she was absolutely right to do so. What an avian! Let’s bow out with another picture or two. Thanks for being you, black-winged stilt.

Credit: Jean and Fred
Credit: Hari K Patibanda