Friday, December 25, 2015

Black-necked Stilt at the Merced National Wildlife Refuge and a Hawaiian Cousin

I'm surprised to see that I haven't yet posted pictures of the Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanu) before. I see them often at the wildlife refuges in the Great Valley. They're also photogenic birds! With their long legs, they cast beautiful reflections in the water as they strut around, poking their beaks into the mud.
I guess it is the sheer richness of variety of the birds in our valley. I go to a refuge, collect a large number of images, and before I've posted them, I'm distracted by a different trip and images.

The Black-necked Stilts are common on the mainland, and their numbers seem secure for the time being. They depend on freshwater wetlands, so their populations could be threatened by habitat loss. They feed on small fish and insects in the shallow waters.
Thousands of years ago, a few stilts were blown off-course, and somehow survived a 2,000 mile journey to the Hawaiian Islands. In the isolation they found there, they evolved ever so slightly from their mainland cousins, and are now considered a subspecies called an ae'o. With their favored habitat being in short supply on the islands, their numbers are not large. There are only about 2,000 of them, few enough that they are considered highly endangered. I've been privileged to see them a few times on my visits to the islands. One of them is in the picture below.
Ae'o, the endangered Black-necked Stilt of Hawaii

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