Monday, 15 February 2016

Rarest Wader in the World


After visiting dozens of lakes and waterways around the MacKenzie Basin and seeing many different birds which included a Black Stilt family with a chick & one hybrid parent, another adult bird defending it’s nest/chick from a hawk and two juvenile Black Stilts up close, we had yet to see an adult Black Stilt up close.

So it was a great thrill when we finally managed to locate not one, but two very confiding adult Black Stilts/KakÄ« feeding in a shallow pond overflow on farmland not too far from Twizel.

Not only were they happy to carry on feeding but I managed to get very close without disturbing them.

Going by the flattened grass track leading to a fence that separated the birds from the road, I got the feeling that these two are very much used to weird humans crouching and crawling through the grass with a camera lens stuck to their face.

Intensive conservation management of the endemic (found nowhere else in the world) Black Stilt began in 1981 when the population had declined to just 23 adult birds. Despite this management the Black Stilt still remains the rarest wading bird in the world, with fewer than 100 breeding birds.

Over 150 captive bred juvenile black stilts (a season record) have been released into the MacKenzie Basin area this past breeding season which should increase the breeding adults over the next 2-3 years, providing they survive predation and the harsh winter environment they live in.

Unlike other birds that make the braided rivers of  the South Island home, the majority of black stilts don’t migrate to warmer climates for winter.

We visited the birds twice while we were staying at Lake Ruataniwha and I’ll certainly be checking in on them again the next time we pass through. We also located another two adults further down the road but they were a lot further away than these two.

That’s another bird we can tick on our virtual list. And it was well worth the wait and effort in finding them, they are a stunning bird.


  1. Are these two birds captive bred? See a green ring on the leg.

    1. Yes, offstone, most Black Stilts are captive bred. There's just too much risk leaving them to breed naturally, once they get past a certain size they can fend for themselves but until then they'll have been looked after. All wild nests found will also have had their eggs removed to hatch at Black Stilt aviaries too. And I suspect if their were any chicks found in the wild they would be caught and banded anyway so they can keep a track of there whereabouts.

  2. Hi Shellie I have been catching on your blog. We lived in Twizel. Tony for 10 years and I did for about 3. I loved it there. I have been feeling homesick looking at the photos. Tony worked on the hydro scheme and disturbing the Black Stilts was instant dismissal for anyone there. Some Black Stilt nests were in an island in the middle of the haul roads. The huge trucks just went around them. I am looking forward to seeing you next weekend at the party!!
    Your cousin Louise

    1. Hi there Louise! I've finally got back to blogging and catching up on my comments. It was great to see you all last month and I'm pleased you're enjoying the blogs. Interesting info on the black stilts too xx


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