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This bird isn’t really walking on stilts. It just looks like it.
The Black-necked Stilt is elongated in every way, with long thin legs that actually measure 8 to 10 inches, a long neck, long narrow wings and a long, very thin beak.
This bird actually stands 14 inches tall and has a 29-inch wing span, and in flight its long, trailing legs are very noticeable.
You recognize its males for being black on top and white underneath, with red legs. The female is very similar except she has dark brown on her back from her neck back to her tail.
These birds feed in shallow water, pursuing their favorite food of aquatic beetles and bug and fly larvae. They also add snails and grasshoppers as supplements.
The black-necked Stilt's alarm call is a sharp yelping “Pep, Pep,” which rises in pitch to a frantic “Yip, Yip, Yip.”
The Black-necked Stilt generally nests in small colonies of 6 to 10 individual nests, but sometimes it also will nest singly.
For a number of years, this species has been nesting in Fulton County in far western Kentucky, and recently they have been found also nesting in southern Christian County.
But these birds are very versatile when picking nest sites. For instance, the nest may be a dry site near water, a mound built up above shallow water level, no nest with eggs on bare ground, a scrape in the ground lined with bits of shell or an elaborate mound of mud, sticks, shell, and debris that is hollowed out in the center.
The outside diameter can be 6 to 10 inches in diameter, with the inside diameter being about 4 inches.
The female lays four eggs, with incubation by both sexes for 25 days. The Black-necked Stilt is assumed to produce a single brood, but fresh eggs have been found from April to July.
However, early nesters sometimes mistake temporary pools of water for permanent pools, resulting in nest abandonment. Also, sometimes rising water prompts these birds to add material to the nest to try and elevate the eggs above water.
When the somewhat small nesting colonies are disturbed by an intruder, the colony responds as a group. They will fly overhead in sweeping circles, uttering loud, harsh, shrill and monotonous calls in order to confuse and distract the disturbing interloper.
So look for this bird in the shallows of bodies of water. It’s just one of 381 bird species that have been seen in glorious Kentucky, but it is maybe more unique, because of its appearance of walking on stilts in the Great Outdoors.
To read more columns about birds by Horace Brown, visit www.SentinelNews.com/recreation. Horace Brown is a civil/sanitary engineer, land surveyor and nature photographer and writer. To contact him or order a copy of Brown’s 2013 Mysterious Night Birds Calendar, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, call 502-682-7711 or write 527 Main Street, Shelbyville 40065.