This elegant and noisy wading bird has, as its name suggests, exceedingly long legs. The black-winged stilt has a wide distribution, but numbers in some places are declining because the wetland habitats where they live are being lost and degraded by human activity. Although the species is not currently listed as threatened, populations in some countries are more vulnerable to extinction than others.
Stilts are placed in the ‘order’ of birds called the Charadriiformes, which is comprised of waders and gulls, and is subdivided into 16 smaller groups or ‘families’. The black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus is a member of the stilt and avocet family, the Recurvirostridae. This small family of wading birds is sub-divided into three ‘genera’. The first contains the four species of avocet, the second contains a single stilt species – the banded stilt from Australia (genus Cladorhynchus) – and the third, the genus Himantopus, includes all the other stilts. The classification or ‘taxonomy’ of this last group has recently been revised, and five species are recognised, the most widespread of which is Himantopus himantopus, which has been split by some into a number of sub-species. The Himantopus stilts are geographically separated and vary in colour and markings depending on where they are distributed.