Himantopus mexicanus, commonly called a black-necked stilt, is a widespread shorbird found in marshy areas, shallow ponds, mudflats, and pools, both alkaline and fresh. This black and white bird with long pink to red legs also utilizes artificial habitats such as sewage and evaporation ponds, ditches, canals and dikes.
Black-neck stilts use their long, thin, black, slightly-upcurved bill to pick food from the surface of water or mud. Finding food visually, they will also plunge their bills underwater to capture a tasty morsel. Although their diet consists mostly of insects, black-necked stilts will also eat shrimp, crayfish, snails, aquatic seeds and even tadpoles and small fish. In salty habitats brine shrimp and brine flies are added to the diet.
Black-necked stilts possess the longest legs of any bird in proportion to their body size after the flamingo. With half-webbed feet, they can swim, but rarely do so. When resting they will draw one leg up and stand on the other leg.
When disturbed or threatened, adults will alternately hop up and down while furiously flapping their wings and calling loudly to intruders. This maneuver is called a “popcorn display”. They will also fly at and hit intruders with their feet. While I was photographing these black-necked stilts at Elkins #2 Pond in Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Modoc County CA), several birds flew directly at Leonard and me but none actually hit us.
Another colloquial name for H mexicanus is longshank.
More information on black-necked stilts can be found in my earlier post: “Black-necked Stilt” on 04-01-2012