Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Adults are monogamous and pairs generally stay together for life (2). The breeding season peaks in October and both the male and female build the nest that consists of a depression in the ground lined with grass, twigs and waterweeds (3). The pair take it in turns to incubate the four eggs, and care for the chicks (2). Black stilts use their slender beaks to prize prey from underneath stones and to skim through muddy water (4). They feed mainly on aquatic invertebrates, small fish and molluscs (2).
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Description

The New Zealand black stilt, or Kakï, is one of the most threatened wading birds in the world (1). This slender wading bird is very distinctive with its completely black plumage, long red legs and fine black bill (3). Juveniles go through various black and white phases before becoming fully black at around 18 months (4). Eggs are ovoid and light green or brownish olive with dark brown markings (2).
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Distribution

Range Description

Himantopus novaezelandiae was formerly widespread, breeding and wintering across the North and South Islands of New Zealand, but following a long-term decline it is now restricted during the breeding season to the upper Waitaki Valley in the South Island. Approximately 90% of the population is sedentary, but small numbers still overwinter in the North Island. The population may have numbered 500-1,000 birds in the 1940s (Pierce 1984), by which time it had ceased to breed in the North Island and was rare as a breeding species in the lowlands. It continued to decline to a low of just 23 birds in 1981, when intensive management began (Keedwell 2005). In 2001, the wild breeding population consisted of just seven pairs (Keedwell et al. 2002), but a maximum of 84 adults were recorded in the wild in August 2002 (M. Bayliss in litt. 2002). By the 2004-2005 breeding season, there were 11 productive pairs (R. Maloney in litt. 2005). Since this point the population has increased primarily thanks to the annual release of 'fast-tracked' captive-reared subadults and juveniles - 77 and 16 respectively in 2007-2008, more than 80 in 2009 and a further 70 in 2012 near Lake Tekapo (R. Maloney in litt. 2008, Anon. 2012). During 2007-2008 there were a total of 20 breeding pairs and 78 mature individuals in the wild (although it is not clear how many of these are of captive origin and have not yet bred in the wild) (R. Maloney in litt. 2008). In 2012, before the annual release of captive reared birds, the free-living population was around 130 individuals (Anon. 2012). The species's survival remains dependent on captive-rearing efforts until predator-free breeding habitat can be maintained (Keedwell 2005). Fewer than 20 dark H. novaezelandiae x H. leucocephalus hybrids are currently known (R. Maloney in litt. 2008). Cryptic hybrids are extremely rare (Steeves et al. 2010).
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Range

MacKenzie Basin (South I., New Zealand); winters to North I..
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Historic Range:
New Zealand

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Range

Endemic to New Zealand, the black stilt was once widespread on both the North and South Islands but is today restricted to the Mackenzie Basin on South Island (2).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It breeds on braided riverbeds, but also occurs in wetlands and swamplands. Some of the population winters along the coastline in inter-tidal habitats and some make small local movements of a few kilometres to the river delta of their breeding valley (Pierce et al. 2015). It feeds primarily on insects, but also takes molluscs (Anon. 2009) and small fish (Pierce 1986a). Birds return to nesting area in late winter-early spring, with breeding between September and January (Pierce et al. 2015). The species is monogamous and birds pair for life (Anon. 2009). It lays four eggs and will usually re-nest if the first clutch is lost early in the season. Both birds in a pair share incubation duties (Anon. 2009). Most breed for the first time at three years of age. The average age is 6.8 years, and there are two birds that are older than 10 years.


Systems
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Breeding now occurs only within the Mackenzie basin, a high plateau in New Zealand's South Island (5). Most nests are on braided riverbeds (where the river separates, exposing parts of the riverbed), but individuals can also be found on the shores of lakes and in wetlands (6). New Zealand black stilts are partially migratory; some birds move to lower coastal sites prior to winter, and some sub-adults winter in the north of the North Island, whilst others remain in the high basin throughout the year (5).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Himantopus novaezelandiae

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
D

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2015

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Bayliss, M., Grant, A., Maloney, R., Murray, D. & Steeves, T.

Justification
Despite 20 years of intensive conservation efforts, this species remains one of the most threatened shorebirds in the world. It is classified as Critically Endangered because, although it has increased over the last decade, it still has only a tiny population. The annual release of substantial numbers of captive-reared birds, in combination with predator control, has almost certainly prevented it from becoming Extinct in the Wild, and the species's long-term survival remains dependent upon this intensive conservation management.


History
  • 2013
    Critically Endangered (CR)
  • 2012
    Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Threatened (T)