The Black-necked Stilt is one of the more easily recognized birds in North America. With its shiny black wings and back opposed by the whites of the breast and underparts and its long, bright red legs it is unlikely to be confused with any other species within its range.
1/1000, f/11, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light
But in my experience most observers are unfamiliar with the differences between males and females. Though the sexes are similar it’s relatively easy to tell them apart when they’re in breeding plumage. The back and scapulars of the male are a solid, shiny black while the female has a noticeable brown tone in those areas. The legs of the female are also shorter than those of the male.
1/1250, f/8, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light
The iris of both sexes is red though it is more brightly colored in the male. Here the pupil is dilated to a relatively large size so the colored iris doesn’t take up much of the eye. I’ve found that in photos it can be difficult to get the eye color to show so it often appears solid black.
1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 400, 500 f/4, 1.4 tc, natural light
But perhaps the most unique feature of the Black-necked Stilt is those incredibly long, ruby-red legs. Their legs are longer in proportion to their bodies than any other bird except flamingos, accounting for one of their common names – daddy longlegs. Stilts have partially webbed feet and they can swim, though they rarely do.
It won’t be long before these birds return to Utah. With the forecast of more snow for the next four days I can hardly wait.