Tag Archives: Black-necked Stilt

Carpe spring: a marshpiper, a stilt and a ruff, oh my!

I visited two birding hotspots in Palm Beach County yesterday. I’m posting about the second stop first, Peaceful Waters in Wellington, because of three wading birds I discovered at that location, including a rare bird.

eBird hotspot Peaceful Waters

Peaceful Waters is a peaceful place, a 30-acre wetland next to soccer fields in a park in the village of Wellington, Florida. A boardwalk and trails pass over and around shallow waters.

Florida Mottled Ducklings.

It’s baby bird season, which is one reason I made the trip. You’ve heard the expression seize the day. In Florida, birdwatchers want to seize the spring! for its nesting season AND migration.

Here is the first of my big-deal birds at Peaceful Waters: a Lesser Yellowlegs.

It’s a big deal to me because I have not seen one before, though I’ve known they exist ever since I saw a Greater Yellowlegs in a Hampton, New Hampshire marsh in October 2016.

The Lesser Yellowlegs is a dainty and alert “marshpiper” that occurs in shallow, weedy wetlands and flooded fields across North America during migration. It’s smaller with a shorter, more needlelike bill than the Greater Yellowlegs, but otherwise looks very similar. It breeds in the meadows and open woodlands of boreal Canada.

Looking at this Abundance Animation map, it looks like some spend winters in Florida; others go to South America.

Look for them in shallow marshes, ephemeral mudflats, and flooded fields in spring and fall, or on the tail ends of drawn-down reservoirs where nutrient-rich mudflats are exposed.

The Lesser Yellowlegs is Bird #225 for me on my sidebar count.

I also saw a striking wading bird, the Black-necked Stilt. I’ve seen them once before in the marshes near Lake Okeechobee, in April 2017.

Black-necked Stilts are among the most stately of the shorebirds, with long rose-pink legs, a long thin black bill, and elegant black-and-white plumage that make them unmistakable at a glance. They move deliberately when foraging, walking slowly through wetlands in search of tiny aquatic prey.

They have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos.

When they are not resting or preening, Black-necked Stilts spend much of the day wading in shallow waters to capture aquatic invertebrates, small crustaceans, amphibians, snails, and tiny fish. They prey on larval mosquitoes, soldier flies, brine flies, caddisflies, dragonflies, mayflies, crickets, grasshoppers, many kinds of beetles (including weevils), water-boatmen, crayfish, brine shrimp, tadpoles, and very small frogs and fish.

Black-necked Stilts are in Florida in all seasons. I guess I haven’t been looking in the right places! I must spend more time visiting the freshwater wetlands away from the coasts.

I might have overlooked this sandpiper if I didn’t ask a birdwatcher nearby for help IDing the Lesser Yellowlegs. He said, “And did you see the Ruff over there?” and pointed.

Then I remembered that morning, when I had glanced through eBird to see what I might see in my planned trip to Green Cay. In the Palm Beach County section, there were lots of photos of the Ruff and I had noticed the location too: Peaceful Waters.

But then I forgot about it because I was so focused on Green Cay. Plus I’m not really expert enough to go chasing rare birds.

But at Green Cay, I got to chatting with a few birders who recommended some other locations in the county, including Peaceful Waters. I thought, “That sounds nice; I’ll go there after lunch.”

What’s the big deal about this Ruff?

“They live in Europe and Asia,” the nice birdwatcher told me.

“Oh geez,” I said, “that bird took a wrong turn.”

That happens sometimes, then a flock of birders will show up to see and appreciate the rare bird. South Florida Rare Bird Update.

The Ruff did not want to share its little patch of green and chased away any other bird that came near.

Apparently adult male Ruffs are striking in breeding season, with lots of extra plumage fluffing up in a “ruff” around its head and neck.

This far-wandering Ruff is blogged bird #226 for me!

Stilts and limpkins

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We took a drive all the way around Lake Okeechobee yesterday. On one little walk we spotted this wild animal!

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Just kidding. It’s Radar, our goofy German Shepherd.

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On another stop we spotted the aptly named “Stilt” bird… the Black-necked Stilt.

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We were at the Harney Pond Canal Recreation area on the west side of the lake, near the little town of Lakeport.

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There is a strange rickety bridge/ boardwalk over to an island.

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Nice views of what, from this Army Corps of Engineers map, appears to be Fisheating Bay.

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Incoming stilt.

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On the little island is another boardwalk with a view, going up to a little observation spot. Hundreds of dragonflies everywhere!

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Here are a few.

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It was very windy, with an east wind, and some dragonflies were clinging to branches, windblown.

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Looking back at the recreation area across the bridge.

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Looking out into the bay and marshes.

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Hey, what’s that bird? It’s new to me. I searched the internet later and discovered it’s a Limpkin!

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

The limpkin is a long-legged species of waterbird that has dark brown feathers with streaks of white on the head and neck and absent on the rest of the body.  Limpkins can grow up to 28 inches (71.1 centimeters) long, with a 42 inch (106.7 centimeters) wingspan, and weigh up to 46 ounces (1,304 grams) (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology 2011).  White blotches and triangular marks can be found on the neck and upper body.  The key physical feature of the limpkin is their down-curved bill, which is used to feed on their primary prey, apple snails.

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Thirsty Turkey Vulture.

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Black Vulture soaring over us.

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Limpkins and maybe some kind of gallinule?

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A nice watery, marshy spot.

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View from the rickety bridge.

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Black-necked Stilt.

A striking black-and-white bird with very long, thin red legs, the Black-necked Stilt is found along the edges of shallow water in open country.

And…

They have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos.