27 August 2016

Black-winged Stilt: Pavilla Kallan (Tamil)

First identified the Black-winged Stilt last season on the Samudram Eri here in Tiruvannamalai and was able to take several photos of the Stilt wading in the waters, but as my camera is not fit for purpose, am illustrating the below narrative of this bird with photographs taken from the web. 

Black-winged Stilt Juvenile

The Black-winged Stilt in India is both local and migratory. Here at Tiruvannamalai I have only spotted it during the wet season, but in South India its more of a permanent fixture at cooler places such as Karnataka. 

Juvenile in Flight

The Black-winged Stilt’s name in Tamil is Pavilla Kallan and has the scientific name of Himantopus Himantopus. Himantopus comes from Greek meaning “strap foot” or “thong foot”. The long, distinctive legs of the black-winged stilt account for nearly 60 percent of its height. 

Black Winged Stilt Grooming

This bird is about 10 inches long and is a large black and white wader with long orange-red legs and a straight black bill. It has black on the back of the neck, a white collar and a red iris. Both sexes are similar, and the plumage does not change during the year. 

Black-winged Stilts give a repeated high-pitched barking call. Immature Stilts lack black on the back of the neck and have grey-brown wings and their back is speckled with white. They have a smudged grey crown, which extends down the back of the neck as the birds get older. The lifespan of the Black-winged Stilt is about 20 years. 

Stilt with Fish

This bird pairs or flocks in social groups at marshes, jheels, village tanks, salt pans and tidal mudflats. Its stilt legs enable it to wade into comparatively deep water where it probes in the squelchy bottom mud for worms, mollusces and aquatic insects etc. When probing for food its head and neck are submerged at a steep angle with the back part of its body sticking out. 

Stilt Bathing

Black-winged Stilts, like many shorebirds, don't swim while feeding. They feed by pecking at food items while wading in the water. 

Adult Stilt in Flight

However it is in fact a very good swimmer but weak in the air. When flying it flaps its wings with its neck extended and its long red legs trailing beyond the tail. 

Flock of Stilts in Flight

Black Winged Stilt Coming in to Land

The Black-winged Stilt is a social species, and is usually found in small groups. The call it makes is a squeaky, piping chek-chek-chek. 

Immature (l) and (r) Adult Stilts

Couple going through Courtship

Pair of Stilts at Nest

The nesting season of the Black-Winged Stilt is principally April to August. It generally nests in small colonies, within which, mated pairs strongly defend their individual territories. 

Eggs in Nest

It makes its nest in a depression on the ground on the edge of a jheel or marsh, or on a raised platform of pebbles in shallow water, lined with vegetable scum or flags of reeds. 

Chick already emerged from egg

It often breeds in large colonies and lays around 3 to 4 eggs, light drab in colour, densely blotched with black, which closely resemble the eggs of Red Wattled Lapwing. 

Female at Nest with Chicks Around Her

Both sexes incubate the eggs and look after the young. The incubation period of the eggs is around 25 days.

Stilt Chick feeding in Mud

The below is a very beautiful video of the song of the Black-Winged Stilt.

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