Hawaiian Stilt

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Image:Aeo.JPG

Hawaiian Name: āeʻo
Common Name: Hawaiian Stilt
Scientific Name: Himantopus himantopus knudseni

Size: 16 inches (40.6 cm)

Habitat: Oceania; endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, USA. The āeʻo can still be found on all the major islands except Kaho‘olawe. Stilt numbers have varied from 1,100 to 1,783 between 1997 and 2007, according to state biannual waterbird survey data, with Mau’i and O‘ahu accounting for 60-80% of them. On Oahu, the largest numbers are found at Pearl Harbor and Kaneohe.

Studies have proven that the stilts fly from one island to another. The āe'o requires shallow brackish water ponds, mud flats and shorelines where it finds its diet of small invertebrates.

Status: Endangered. Global Population: 1500 mature individuals. The ae‘o was once a popular game bird, but waterbird hunting was banned in 1939. State and Federal effort in protecting wetlands, enforcing strict hunting laws, educating, and working with private organizations and landowners, play an important role in ensuring the livelihood of the ae‘o and many other waterbirds.

The primary causes of the decline of this Hawaiian native waterbird has been the loss and degradation of wetland habitat and introduced predators (e.g., rats, dogs, cats, mongoose). Other factors include alien plants, introduced fish, bull frogs, disease, and sometimes environmental contaminants.

Four stilt eggs were received in 1980 from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and were among the first to be raised and studied in a successful in-zoo propagation program at the Honolulu Zoo. Since then more stilts have been raised at the zoo, including the ones seen in the Hawaiian water bird exhibit. Because it is often hard to observe all aspects of stilt behavior in the wild, the zoo program allows us to observe this endangered species more closely, and the information gathered can help not only in propagation but in protection of this unique Hawaiian bird.

Diet: Wide variety of invertebrates and other aquatic organisms (worms, crabs, fish). They like to loaf around in open mudflats, sparsely vegetated pickleweed mats, and open pasture lands perhaps because visibility is good. Specific water depths of 13 cm (5 inches) are required for optimal foraging.

Nesting: They have long pink legs, a long thin black bill and are blackish above and white below, with a white head and neck with a varying amount of black. Males have a black back, often with greenish gloss. Females' backs have a brown hue, contrasting with the black remiges. In the populations in which the males usually get all-white heads in winter, females tend to have less black on head and neck all year round, while males often have much black, particularly in the summer. However this difference is not clear-cut.

Nest sites are frequently separated from feeding sites and stilts move between these areas daily. Nesting sites are adjacent to or on low islands within bodies of fresh, brackish, or salt water. The nest site is a bare spot on the ground near water. The stilt lays 3-4 eggs.

Cool Facts: The āeʻo is the only breeding shorebird in Hawaii. It has a flapping flight, its long legs stretched out straight behind it. It forms small flocks of varying numbers.

The mature birds use tricks such as a "broken wing act" to lure intruders away from the nest area. It has a short sharp cry, "keek," that is given in flight and on the ground when disturbed. A soft muted call is given when resting.  


Found in Songbird ReMix Hawai'i

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