Closely related to H. novaezelandiae, with which known to hybridize and which is sometimes considered conspecific. Races often considered to warrant recognition of 2–5 distinct species. Races can be split into three groups (nominate; “pied” race leucocephalus; and “black-necked” races knudseni, mexicanus and melanurus); four groups (as preceding one, but with melanurus separated out as a full species); or five monotypic groups (as indicated here, below). One recent author#R treated each of the forms himantopus, leucocephalus, knudseni and mexicanus (but not, puzzlingly, melanurus) as a separate species, but provided no supporting evidence. Patterns of differentiation on the head are notable but thematically recurrent (e.g. similar between knudseni and mexicanus, and between leucocephalus and melanurus), and typical calls of nominate and leucocephalus apparently differ, latter giving lower-pitched, shorter notes#R. With the (current) limited availability of vocal evidence indicating differences between taxa, however, the case for treating this complex as anything but a single species with variations in the amount and distribution of black on the head and neck is hard to make. Geographical variation also claimed in S Africa and Sri Lanka, in respective forms meridionalis and ceylonensis, but both exhibit considerable overlap with other populations of nominate himantopus. Five subspecies normally recognized.
Food and feeding
Status and conservation
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