Himantopus mexicanus mexicanus

Status:  Uncommon regular spring and fall migrant west and central, rare east.  Locally uncommon regular breeder western Sandhills, rare Scotts Bluff Co and Rainwater Basin, rare casual elsewhere.

Documentation: Specimen: HMM 28534, 12 May 1956 Adams Co.

Taxonomy:  Two or three subspecies are recognized, only one in North America, mexicanus; the others occur in Hawaii and South America (Pyle 2008).  Nebraska birds are mexicanus.

Changes Since 2000: This species began breeding sporadically in Nebraska in the 1980s, but since 2000 breeding has occurred every year in the western Sandhills and has occurred with increased regularity, albeit not annually, in the Rainwater Basin.

Spring:  Apr 13, 13, 14 <<<>>> summer

There are earlier reports 4 Apr 2014 Jefferson Co, 10 Apr 2021 Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co, and 11 Apr 2020 Hitchcock Co. Early Jun records, as well as later reports into early Jul may be of non-breeding immatures, since breeding usually occurs when birds are two years old (Robinson et al 2020).

This species is rare in spring in the east; however, there was a nice push of 11 migrants in all at six different locations there 2-18 May 2018, followed by eight in 2019 at seven locations 13 Apr-18 May, and four at three locations 19 Apr-7 May 2020.

  • High counts: 27 in Sheridan Co 7 May 1994, 23 there 20 Jul 2019, and 21 there in “spring” 1996.

SummerPrior to 1970, this species was casual in occurrence in Nebraska with only about nine reports (Sharpe et al 2001). During the 1970s and early 1980s, reports increased, primarily in western areas in spring, with eight records east to Cherry, Dawson, and Lincoln Co, as well a single eastern record in Lancaster Co 28 Apr 1981. Since 1988, Black-necked Stilts have been reported regularly.

Breeding was reported for the first time in Nebraska in 1985 when young were observed at Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co (Helsinger 1985) and again in 1987 (Huber 1987). Nesting has continued since in Sheridan and Garden Cos, with most reports from the Lakeside area in Sheridan Co and Crescent Lake NWR. As many as six nests with eggs were found near Lakeside 16 May-6 Jun 2000 (Farrar 2001, Mollhoff 2004) and a systematic survey of lakes in Sheridan and Garden Cos specifically for Black-necked Stilts yielded observations of 28 breeding adults, 22 chicks and 35 non-breeding adults (Wells 2004).  Five nests were found at Crescent Lake NWR in 2007 (Mollhoff 2008).

Nesting has not been documented in Cherry Co, although a pair was seen 25 Jun 1999 and another pair was photographed 2 Jul 2013. There is a report of a nest with eggs photographed in northern Nebraska in 1994 (Loren Blake, letter to NGPC Heritage Program).

In the Rainwater Basin, reports began in the late 1990s, when there were sightings at Funk WPA, Phelps Co 11 Jun 1996, 5-10 Jun 1997, and 1-3 on 11-18 Jun 2000, and 2-10 Jun 1997 in Seward Co (Jorgensen 2012).  Breeding was successful at Funk WPA in 2003, when two adults with two young were seen 21 Jul-16 Aug (Drahota 2003). Nesting was reported again at Funk WPA in 2007 and 2008 (Mollhoff 2008). In 2005, multiple nests as well as several additional sightings involving more than 25 birds occurred in the eastern portion of the Rainwater Basin following heavy rains that filled wetlands, including some that were recently renovated; these were the first breeding records there (Jorgensen and Dunbar 2005). The 2005 event included nesting at Harvard WPA, Clay Co, Trumbull Basin in Clay Co, and Spikerush WMA, York Co (Jorgensen 2012). A nest with four eggs was found at Sinninger WPA, York Co 18 Jun 2016, and, based on the actions of the adults, young may have been present 9 Jul; however, the wetland was dry by 28 Jul when no stilts were observed and the outcome of the nesting is unknown. Breeding in the Rainwater Basin has been sporadic and usually follows heavy rainfall events, however none were observed nesting in 2015 (Jorgensen 2016).

A pair with eggs was near Crawford, Dawes Co 28 May 1994, but the outcome was not reported (Silcock and Rosche 1994). A pair of protective adults and 4-5 chicks were seen at County Road F Pond, Scotts Bluff Co, 20-22 Jul 2002, but, while the presence of avocets made the identity of the chicks uncertain, it seems likely that breeding occurred. Breeding indeed occurred in 2003, when a juvenile was seen with adults 11 Aug, and in 2004, when two pairs fledged at least one brood; incubating birds were first seen 22 May. Since then, however, this pond has been modified and stilts no longer breed there as of 2016. Among 14 stilts at Kiowa WMA, Scotts Bluff Co 11 Jul 2011 were two half-grown chicks.

Along the western Platte River Valley, nesting was noted at the Grand Island SL, Hall Co in 1998, but the outcome was not reported.  A defensive male with a fledgling 29-30 Jul 2000 at the west end of Lake McConaughy where a pair had been seen in Apr led the observer to conclude there was “no doubt nesting occurred there”; an immature was still there 11 Sep. Seven birds at Bittern’s Call WMA, Dawson Co 27 Aug 2008 included a newly-fledged juvenile likely produced there; one bird was there 12 Sep and at neighboring cattle feedlot waste-control ponds at least one nesting pair was present 2 and 5 Jul 2009.

In 2011 a surprise both by the late date and easterly location was the discovery of two nesting pairs in a flooded field in Dakota Co; two birds were seen 21 Jul and the nests were found later the same day. By 28 Jul there were nine birds in the area and incubation was ongoing 30 Jul. Of the two nests started, one had dried out and was abandoned and the other had four eggs by 2 Aug; the first downy young was seen 6 Aug and two in juvenile plumage were noted 6 Aug. Birds were still present 27 Aug, when an adult and three juveniles estimated to be 24 days old were seen.

  • Breeding Phenology:
    Copulation: 14 May
    Eggs: 16 May-30 Jul
    Young: 24 Jun-27 Aug

Fall:  summer  <<<>>>  Sep 1, 1, 2

Flocking and wandering begins in mid-Jul, and most depart by mid-Aug.

Later dates are 8-16 Sep 2018 Sarpy Co, 9 Sep 2008 four Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co, 9 Sep 2019 two Lake Ogallala, Keith Co, 14 Sep 2004 two Grant Co,  14 Sep 2008 Dawson Co, 16 Sep 2020 six in Clay Co, 17 Sep 2008 five at Tamora WPA, Seward Co, 21 Sep 1989 eight Lake Alice, Scotts Bluff Co, 22-29 Sep 2019 Funk WPA, Phelps Co, 1 Oct 2020 North Platte WTP, Lincoln Co, 2 Oct 2016 Sheridan Co, 14 Oct 2009 Lincoln Co, and 28 Oct 2020 two over Valentine, Cherry Co.

  • High counts:  43 at Funk WPA 11 Jul 2011, 39 at Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co 18 Aug 2020, and 35 at Lakeside 31 Aug 2008.


HMM: Hastings Municipal Museum
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SL: Sewage Lagoons
WMA: Wildlife Management Area (State)
WPA: Waterfowl Production Area (Federal)


Photograph (top) of a pair of Black-necked Stilts near Antioch, Sheridan Co 20 May 2018 by Joel G. Jorgensen.

Literature Cited

Drahota, J. 2003. Breeding Black-necked Stilts at Funk Waterfowl Production Area. NBR 71: 166-167.

Farrar, J. 2001. A tale of two stilts. Nebraskaland 79: 10-19.

Helsinger, M.J. 1985. Black-necked Stilts nesting in Nebraska. NBR 53: 72.

Huber, R.R. 1987. Crescent Lake nesting records. NBR 55: 75.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2012.  Birds of the Rainwater Basin, Nebraska.  Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Jorgensen, J.G. 2016.  A summary of 2015 breeding bird surveys of selected Rainwater Basin wetlands.  Nongame Bird Program of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Jorgensen, J.G, and P. Dunbar. 2005. Multiple Black-necked Stilt nesting records in the Rainwater Basin. NBR 73: 115-118.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2004. The 2001 Nesting Report. NBR 72: 99-103.

Mollhoff, W.J. 2008. The 2007 Nebraska nest report. NBR 76: 155-165.

Pyle, P. 2008. Identification Guide to North American Birds. Part II, Anatidae to Alcidae. Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, California, USA.

Robinson, J.A., J.M. Reed, J.P. Skorupa, and L.W. Oring, 2020. Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Sharpe, R.S., W.R. Silcock, and J.G. Jorgensen. 2001. The Birds of Nebraska, their Distribution and Temporal Occurrence.  University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.

Silcock, W.R., and R.C. Rosche. 1994. Spring Field Report, March-May 1994. NBR 62: 66-88.

Wells, K.M. 2004. Black-necked Stilt Survey. Final Report November 2004. University of Nebraska-Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2021.  Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 1 Jun 2021