Nesting of the Black-winged Stilt

on 5th October 2015

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

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.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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