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Black Stilt

Himantopus novaezelandiae


With an estimated population of just 93 adults, this stilt is the rarest wading bird in the world.

Aptly named the Black Stilt, this striking bird is entirely black apart from its very long, red legs. These long legs are adapted for wading through varying depths of water in the wetlands and braided rivers of the South Island, New Zealand. Originally found throughout most of the country, the Black Stilt is now predominantly restricted to the Waitaki Valley. Introduced mammals such as cats, stoats, ferrets and hedgehogs have been the main cause in the decline of the species. Habitat loss and disturbance by humans have also contributed to the decrease in numbers. Thanks to intensive management of wild and captive populations and wetland habitats, numbers are now on the increase. As recently as 1999, there were only 4 wild pairs of Black Stilts. Supplementation of the wild population via egg collection, incubation, hand-rearing chicks and release of juveniles has prevented species extinction and increased pair numbers to a 40+ year high of 23 pairs in 2012.

  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Recurvirostridae
  • Population: <100
  • Trend: increasing
  • Size: 40 cm

EDGE Score

EDGE Score: 5.08 (?)
ED Score: 9.08 (?)
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


Endemic to New Zealand, the tiny remaining population is found only in the Waitaki Valley of the South Island. A small number of individuals may fly to coastal areas and to the North Island for winter, but the majority remain in the Waitaki Valley.

Habitat and Ecology

They are wading birds, and as such inhabit wetlands, including swamps, estuaries, braided riverbeds, tarns, lake deltas and intertidal flats.

Find out more

This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Recreation Dams Invasive species Native species

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
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