With only seven species, this is a small family of shorebirds, yet they are found on all continents of the world. The stilts are instantly recognizable due to their extraordinarily long legs, while the slightly shorter-legged avocets have uniquely upturned bills. All have slim, elegant bodies, long necks, short tails and longish wings. Stilts inhabit a wide variety of wetlands, from intertidal mudflats and brackish lagoons to freshwater swamps, lakes, flooded paddy fields and braided riverbeds well inland. They feed primarily on aquatic insects, molluscs, crustaceans and worms, mostly obtained by pecking at the surface of the water or mud, whilst gracefully wading in shallow water up to their “knees”, or occasionally, by plunging the head completely under water. At night, however, when visibility is greatly reduced, both stilts and avocets, use a tactile technique known as ‘scything’ in which the slightly opened bill is swept from side to side at a low angle through the water, or soft mud, to filter out small invertebrates. Stilts are gregarious and often breed colonially. Some populations are sedentary, while others are nomadic or even migratory. Compared to other shorebirds, they are quite noisy.
Only one species of stilt occurs in Java, although its taxonomy is still debated.
Direct and buoyant, on stiff, shallow wingbeats, the feet extending well beyond the tail. Pointed wings flicked in quite shallow beats; glides in wind (Hume 2002).
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