Avocet - Black-winged Stilt

The subsequent images were taken at the National Park Neusiedlersee Seewinkel which is located in the south eastern corner of Austria.

The page deals with Avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta), and Black-winged Stilts (Himantopus himantopus). Both species appear here as well as migrating guest as also for breeding purpose.

Most photos of this page were taken in April and May 2003.

Avocets are attention attracting birds. An upward curved slim bill shape and the blue gray legs, are combined with an accentuated white and black plumage coloring.

Normally they prefer salt water environment, but sometimes like here, they also accept moderate salt or bitter conditions.

Adult, both genders are very similar, juveniles show a black which is not that accentuated and sepia brown shoulder feathers.


Black-winged Stilts may not easily be confound because of the extremely long bright red legs and the black and white plumage. A small head with a black needle like bill sits on a rather long neck.

A Black-winged Stilt looks like some very graceful mini Stork. The Pigeon sized body stands on extremely long legs compared with the body size.

Black-winged Stilts prefer stagnant fresh or brackish water conditions. Nests are located close to the water on the open ground. First brood in third summer, both genders alternate.

Intruders are chased away together. The birds may emit calls which sound like yelping of young dogs.


Avocets are about 44 cm long. Here the bird displays some typical gesture. Shortly it will start sweeping the ground for prey by continuous swivelling the bill through the silty ground.

Click on preview thumbnails for enlarged presentation!

  Avocets are monogamous. Pairing starts already in the late winter season. Therefore many birds arrive at the breeding territories already as pairs. In case Avocets face each other, they perform some formal bow gesture.  
  The preferred sweeping grounds are shallow waters like visible here. Sometimes Avocets also populate deeper waters for hunting. Then they perform similar to ducks with just the tail above the water. (top of page)  
  As introduction to copulation a typical ritual is adhered. At first, the hen signalizes readiness by gesture as visible. Then the cock several times swaps from the left to the right side. Finally splashing water by the bill follows.  
  Now the cock jumps on the back of the hen for copulation. In order to keep good balance, wings are usually used. After copulation, both birds perform a short sprint together, sometimes with crossed bills.  
  Black-winged Stilts are about 38 cm long. A special attraction are the very long bright red legs, which are in contrast to the body size. Due to these legs, Black-winged Stilts may search for prey in deeper water than comparable waders. They capture tadpoles, water bugs, water beetles and fly larvae. (top of page)  
  Regularly four eggs are laid between mid of May and mid of June. As usual at wader's nests the pointed egg tips are directed to the nest's center. Brood duration about 25 days. The chicks behave very hidden, before they start flying after about 4 weeks. 2-4 weeks later they achieve their autonomy.  
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Lapwing - Spotted Redshank
, Black-tailed Godwit, Stork - Seagull, Coastal Birds
Last Update: August 2005 - send me an email
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