Family Avocets, Stilts (Recurvirostridae)

Critically Endangered

Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae)


French: Échasse noire German: Schwarzer Stelzenläufer Spanish: Cigüeñuela negra

Himantopus novæ-zelandiæ


, 1841,

Port Nicholson, North Island, New Zealand


Closely related to H. himantopus, with which sometimes considered conspecific; known to hybridize with H. h. leucocephalus, and the two species are very similar in courtship and breeding behaviour. Monotypic.


New Zealand: formerly widespread in North I and South I, but breeding now restricted to upper Waitaki Valley (MacKenzie Basin), in C South I; small numbers winter locally in North I.

Descriptive notes

37–40 cm; c. 195–220 g; tarsus mean 87 mm. Distinctive all-black plumage with greenish gloss to back and wings; long pink legs; presence of white flecks on head (... read more


Quite vocal. Most-frequently heard call a repeated staccato, strident, yelping “yek..yek..yek…”,... read more


Braided riverbeds, lake shores, swamps and shallow ponds of MacKenzie Basin. Breeds beside streams... read more

Food and feeding

Carnivorous, taking variety of invertebrates and small fish. On riverbed breeding grounds, feeds predominantly on aquatic insect larvae and... read more


Seasonal, taking place in Aug–Jan (peak Oct). Usually solitary; defends territory against other congeners. Pair-bonds generally form... read more


Sedentary in MacKenzie Basin with local movements of up to several kilometres, usually in autumn/... read more

Status and conservation

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED. Formerly (pre-1900) occurred widely in North I and South I, but 1930 the only known nesting areas were on inland riverbeds in Canterbury and Otago, and... read more

Recommended citation

Pierce, R.J., Kirwan, G.M., Boesman, P. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 28 January 2020).