Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



“Multiple Black-necked Stilt Nesting Records in the Rainwater Basin” from Nebraska Bird Review (September 2005) 73(3).


Copyright 2005 Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Used by permission.


Black-necked Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus) have increased throughout much of the mid-continent in recent decades (Will 1999, Brinkley 2003, Brinkley and Baicich 2004). Prior to 1970 there were fewer than ten Nebraska records (Sharpe et al. 2001 ). Reports have increased since 1970 and are now annual. Breeding was first recorded in Nebraska in 1985 at Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge (Heisinger 1985). Breeding has been more or less regular in the western Sandhills since then (Sharpe et al. 2001) and additional breeding records have occurred in Scotts Bluff (Silcock 2002b ), Keith, and Hall Counties (Silcock 2000b ).

In the Rainwater Basin, there was only one record prior to 1996, a specimen collected in Adams County 12 May 1956 (Sharpe et al. 2001). From 1996 through 2004, there were fourteen additional reports. This includes apparent successful breeding at Funk Waterfowl Production Area (WPA), Phelps Co., in 2003 (Silcock 2003).

The Rainwater Basin has been experiencing persistent drought since 2000. While drought has been a general theme, occasional localized heavy precipitation events have filled wetlands. Such was the case on 11–12 May 2005 when 3–8" inches of rain fell in portions of the Eastern Rainwater Basin, including Adams, Fillmore, and York Counties. Not long after, Black-necked Stilts were found at multiple wetlands, and several pairs attempted nesting. Below, we summarize observations of nesting Black-necked Stilts in the Eastern Rainwater Basin during 2005.