Monday, July 27, 2009

Native Species of the Week - Hawaiian Stilt; Ae'o

Hawaiian name: Āe'o
English name: Hawaiian Stilt
Scientific name: Himantopus mexicanus knudseni

A stilt with a chick.
Photo: DOFAW

The Hawaiian Stilt is an endangered and endemic bird that lives in Hawaii. In fact, it lives only in Hawaii. Species endemic to Hawai'i are found nowhere else on earth. This is their only home.
What a great reason to protect these special plants and animals!
The Hawaiian stilt is a subspecies of the Black-necked Stilt of the Americas. But the two birds look almost identical. Here is the Hawaiian Stilt:

Himantopus mexicanus knudseni
Photo: C. Tucker

And here is the Black-Necked Stilt:

Himantopus himantopus mexicanus
Photo: DOFAW 

The stilt is a waterbird that enjoys hanging around wetlands like marshes and ponds. Stilts have loooong pink legs.
In fact, they have the second-longest legs in proportion to their bodies of any bird, exceeded only by flamingos. They prefer water that is shallow, under 24 cm or 9 in. deep. It likes to keep its body out of the water and dip down and pick little critters out of the mud.

Hawaiian Stilt dipping into the mud for a snack.
Photo: C. Tucker

The stilt is black and white, and has a long thin beak, perfect for pinching the worms, fish, crustaceans and insects that it loves to eat. The stilt moves between two different habitats each day, one is for foraging and eating, the other is for breeding and nesting.

To find out more about the Āe'o, visit the bird's fact sheet on the Hawaii Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy webpage.

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