Nesting of the Black-winged Stilt

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In June 2015 Danaraj Maniam came across a small colony of Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus himantopus) in a wetland outside Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia. There were about five nests in the making on the dry muddy wetland. He returned to the site every two days to check on the progress of the nesting, spending 4-5 hours from as early as 7.00 am. This continued from late June to August.

The Black-winged Stilt is a resident and migratory bird in Peninsular Malaysia. In Singapore it is an uncommon winter visitor and passage migrant (above, below).

The nest is a simple scrape on the earth. The full clutch of eggs is four (below), laid at intervals of approximately 24 hours, occasionally 48 hours (Pierce, 1996). Eggs are white with darker spotting or blotching, or a combination of both. According to Wells (1999) eggs are not described locally, nor are clutch and brood size known.

Incubation usually begins after the laying of the third or fourth egg, sometimes after the second (Pierce, 1996). Both sexes share in the incubation duties, with changeover being frequent (below). The pair below in full breeding plumage shows the male incubating and the female standing nearby.

Hatching is synchronous meaning all eggs are hatched within a 24-hour period (Pierce, 1996). This occurred 20 days later, in late July (below),

…and the chicks are nidifugous, meaning they are born in an advanced stage with downy plumage (below)…

…and capable of moving away from the nest (below).

However, only two chicks were seen, either moving alone or accompanied by an adult (below).

It was not ascertained whether the other two eggs hatched. It could be possible that the eggs were predated, of if hatched, the chicks were either in hiding or had been predated. There were no signs of the shells in the nest. But then it is usual with surface nesting birds for the adults to dispose of them some distance away, as seen in Little Terns (Sterna albifrons).

The chicks shown above and below are around a week old.

Below shows the 26-day old chick, already fledged, swimming in a nearby pool.

The 36-day old juvenile (below) is distinct in its brownish-grey crown and hindneck. Its upperparts and wing-coverts are of the same colour but with buffish fringes (Robson, 2008).

Pierce (1996) reports a clutch of 4 eggs usually, incubation period 22-26 days by both sexes, fledging 28-37 days for this subspecies but not from Malaysia.

Danaraj Maniam
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
October 2015

References:
1.
Pierce, R. J. 1996. Family Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets). In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal (eds.), Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 332-347.
2. Robson, C., 2008. A field guide to the birds of South-east Asia. New Holland, London. 544 pp.
3. Wells, D.R., 1999. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. I, Non-passerines. Academic Press, London. 648 pp.

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