Thursday, January 5, 2012

Daddy Long Legs

Black-Necked Stilt
aka the Daddy Longlegs, Longshank
Viera Wetlands & Click Ponds

"I thought I made a mistake once but it turned out it was a creative moment."
Scott Fleming

Those legs! Those long, long legs. This bird stands out - literally! - from the crowd. In fact, they have the second longest legs in proportion to their body in the entire bird world, behind flamingos. Couple those long, pink legs with the distinctive black and white plumage, and gee whiz, any photographer worth her salt would jump for joy any time she crosses paths with one of these guys.

I've stumbled across black-necked stilts in some fairly unexpected places: in the middle of Wiggins Pass, all alone on a sandbar tower above a flock of terns and on a golf course lurking beyond a sand trap. Each time, it was a thrilling surprise that kept me grinning for a good long while.

Stilts use a technique called "belly-soaking" which is the carrying of water in cupped in their wings and ventral feathers. Crazy, right? In hot climates adults use belly soaking to cool themselves, the eggs or chicks, and to increase nest humidity. Stilts may make over 100 trips for water a day.

These birds distract predators using aerial maneuvers and mock injuries while the young scurry off to hide. Incredibly, they are also able to swim for short periods of time using their wings.

My feathered friends, much like my human friends, never cease to amaze and delight me.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400VR lens