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Himantopus himantopus (Black-winged stilt) 

Rooipootelsie [Afrikaans]; Mamenotoana-nala [South Sotho]; Steltkluut [Dutch]; Échasse blanche [French]; Stelzenläufer [German]; Perna-longa [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Recurvirostridae

Himantopus himantopus (Black-winged stilt) 
Himantopus himantopus (Black-winged stilt) 
Top left: Black-winged stilt, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Bottom right: Black-winged stilt, Strandfontein Sewerage Works, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Top right: Black-winged stilt, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Bottom right: Black-winged stilt, Strandfontein Sewerage Works, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ©]

Distribution and habitat

Its distribution stretches across the world between 50° North and 40° South, including in sub-Saharan Africa, absent from the forests of the DRC and Angola. In southern Africa it is common across much of the region, largely excluding southern Botswana, Zimbabwe, much of Mozambique and south-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers inland and coastal wetlands, such as commercial salt pans, flooded fields, flood plains, papyrus swamps and sewage works.

Distribution of Black-winged stilt in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

Movements and migrations

Little known, it is thought to be a nomad and partial migrant, moving in search of recently flooded temporary pans; it is also a breeding migrant to Zambia, staying there from about April-November.


It mainly eats insects, other invertebrates and fish, doing most of its foraging by locating prey visually before plucking them from the water surface, or by immersing its head in the water while locating prey with touch. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • insects
    • small gastropods
    • polychaetes
    • crustaceans
    • spiders
  • Vertebrates
    • tadpoles
    • amphibian eggs
    • fish and their eggs


  • Monogamous, usually solitary nester, although it may occasionally breed in loose colonies of about 5-10 pairs.
  • The nest (see image below) is built by both sexes, consisting of a mound of mud usually with incorporated pieces of material, such as Waterweed (Potamogeton pectinatus), oxygen weed (Lagarosiphon), Kariba weed (Salvinia molesta) and often decorated with mollusc shells. It is typically placed on damp mud, mats of vegetation or some other structure at the edge of the waterline.
Himantopus himantopus (Black-winged stilt)  Himantopus himantopus (Black-winged stilt) 

Black-winged stilt incubating its eggs, Nylsvley, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

Black-winged stilt chick, Rocher Pan, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from January-July in Botswana and Namibia and from about August-December elsewhere in southern Africa.
  • It lays 2-5 eggs, which are mainly incubated by the female for about 24-27 days, although the nest is often left unattended on cool or overcast days.
  • The chicks leave the nest and are capable of self-feeding with 24 hours of hatching, taking their first flight at about 28-32 days and becoming fully independent about 14-28 days later.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.