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Pied stilt

Status:  Declining (click to see what this means)

Pied stilt

Pied stilt landing

Braided river status

The pied stilt is often seen with other wading birds, particularly with the critically endangered black stilt/ kakī and South Island pied oystercatchers. Lowland birds start moving towards their breeding sites along braided rivers June-July each year. Inland birds start later in August-October. 


Believed to have arrived in New Zealand in the early 1800s, the pied stilt  (Himantopus leucocephaluspoaka (Māori) measures 35cm and weighs 190gm. Occasionally a single pair will nest alone, but usually they breed in colonies. They will breed with black stilt/ kakī, producing hybrids. 

Pied stilt pair flying

Pied stilt pair


A compact, black-and-white stilt with long red legs and a long fine pointed black bill. Adult hybrid stilts have a black band of variable width across the breast. This can sometimes lead them to be mistaken for black stilt/kakī juveniles.

Pied stilt eggs

Pied stilt eggs


Khaki-coloured with dark brown blotches.

Conservation activities

More information

Research papers

    • Hagen et al (2011) Conservation Genetic Management of A Critically Endangered New Zealand Endemic Bird: Minimizing Inbreeding In The Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae). The International Journal of Avian Science 153(3):556-561.
    • Dowding & Moore (2006) Habitat networks of indigenous shorebirds in New Zealand,  SCIENCE FOR CONSERVATION 261 (DOC open access PDF part 1 and PDF part 2)
  • Maloney & Murray (2001) Kaki (Black Stilt) Recovery Plan 2001–2011. Department of Conservation, Wellington.
  • Millar et al (1997). Captive Management and Molecular Sexing of Endangered Avian Species: An Application To The Black Stilt Himantopus novaezelandiae and Hybrids. Biological Conservation 82(1):81-86.
  • Sanders &. Maloney (2002) Causes of Mortality At Nests of Ground-Nesting Birds In The Upper Waitaki Basin, South Island, New Zealand: A 5-Year Video Study. Biological Conservation 106(2):225-236.
  • Steeves et al (2008) Development of Polymorphic Microsatellite Markers For The New Zealand Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) and Cross-Amplification In The Pied Stilt (Himantopus himantopus leucocephalus). Molecular Ecology Resources 8(5):1105-1107.
  • Pierce (1982) A Comparative Ecological Study of the Pied and Black Stilts in South Canterbury. Ph.D. thesis. University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.
  • Pierce (1984) Plumage, Morphology and Hybridization of New Zealand Stilts Himantopus spp. Notornis 31(1): 106-130.
  • Pierce (1986) Differences in Susceptibility to Predation Between Pied and Black Stilts (Himantopus spp.). Auk 103(2): 273-280.
  • Pierce (1986) Foraging responses of stilts (Himantopus spp.: Aves) to changes in behaviour and abundance of their riverbed prey New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research (open access PDF)Pierce (1996) Ecology and Management of The Black Stilt Himantopus novaezelandiae. Bird Conservation International 6(01):81-88.
  • Cameron et al (2005) Improving predator capture rates: analysis of river margin trap site data in the Waitaki Basin, New Zealand New Zealand Journal of Ecology (open access PDF)