Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Black-necked Stilt - Himantopus mexicanus
Search Common:                 Search Scientific:
General Comments The Black-necked Stilt is one of the most unmistakable birds occurring in North Carolina, resembling no others (except members of its genus elsewhere). It has very particular requirements for nesting and foraging, and as a result, is one of the most intensely local nesting birds on the East Coast. It seldom shows up away from its few favored sites in the state; most birders see the species only in the Pea/Bodie islands area, one of the few easily accessible places to see the species. For nesting and foraging, it is restricted to fresh to brackish, still waters -- mainly impoundments, dredge spoil ponds, and sewage treatment ponds, along and close to the coast. Nearly all sites in the state are man-made bodies of water. Unlike most other shorebird species, which may straggle into late fall or early winter, stilts are quite cold intolerant, and depart the state promptly by mid-fall. This is one of the rarest shorebirds found away from the coast, with just a handful of far inland records.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status SR
U.S. Status
State Rank S1B
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Summer resident and sparse migrant along the coast and in the Tidewater zone. A very local breeder (at only a small number of sites), but fairly common at such locales; in general, rare along most stretches of the coast, and very rare to casual in Tidewater areas. Away from coastal counties, known to nest in northeastern Pamlico and apparently in Beaufort near Aurora. Mainly mid-Apr to mid-Sep, very sparingly from late Mar to early Nov. Two winter records: one was killed on 3 Dec 1925 in Currituck; and one was at Alligator River NWR, 2-4 Jan 2005. Farther inland, it is a casual stray, with records (three or four) for the Goldsboro area, in May and Aug; and one at Buckhorn Reservoir (Wilson) on 4 Aug 2020 following passage of Hurricane Isaias. Peak counts: 46, Pea Island, 15 Aug 1995 and 28 Jul 2011; 44, Eagle Island (near Wilmington), 12 Jul 1991; 38 adults on 14 June 2020 and 35 adults and one chick on 7 Jun 2020, all at Cedar Island NWR (Carteret).
Piedmont Casual migrant or stray, mainly in late spring; nine records. One was seen in Franklin on 5 Jun 2004; four were at Winston-Salem on 28 May 2010, with one remaining to 3 Jun; one was at Falls Lake, also on 28 May 2010; and a remarkable winter record was one seen at a sewage treatment plant at Lillington (Harnett) from 3-5 Jan 1988 [Chat 53:19 link]. The fifth record was one at Lake Crabtree (Wake) on 15 May 2013. Additional records are one photographed at a small pond in Mebane (Alamance) on 6 May 2014; one at Lake Crabtree on 11 May 2015; one in the Winston-Salem (Forsyth) area on 7-8 Apr 2017; and one at Lake Wheeler (Wake) on 14 May 2017.
Mountains Accidental, with two records. One was seen at Hooper Lane (Henderson) on 25 Sep 2004, presumably brought there by Tropical Storm Jeanne [Chat 69:48 link]. One was seen at this same site on 31 May 2018 [Chat 82:86 link].
Finding Tips The best -- at least most accessible -- places to see this species are the impoundments at Pea Island NWR, and at times at nearby Bodie Island (lighthouse pond), from May into mid-summer. However, they can be missed. Most other nesting sites require a boat to reach, or are on private property.
Attribution LeGrand[2021-03-05], LeGrand[2020-10-20], LeGrand[2018-11-08]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.