Legs for days! Black-winged stilt chick strides into new habitat


A newly hatched Black-winged stilt chick is growing into its legs at Melbourne Zoo with ample encouragement from Mum and Dad.

The long-legged, water-dwelling chick is waddling around its pond, flapping its tiny wings and chirping to its parents as it clumsily explores its new habitat.

Melbourne Zoo birdkeeper Kody Davidson said the stilt’s parents worked together to protect the fluffy brown-and-white chick as it steadily became more independent during the past eight weeks.

“The chick is absolutely adorable and is eating on its own, splashing in the pond and occasionally hiding under Mum and Dad for comfort,” Mr Davidson said.

“Stilts breed when they feel safe and happy in their environment. The chick is a major welfare win for Melbourne Zoo as it was conceived shortly after we upgraded the habitat with new Australian native aquatic plants, substrate and a larger pond.”

While nesting, Black-winged stilts bend their long, orange legs and shimmy their bodies down onto the eggs, which incubate for 25 days. The species likes to nest out in the open near wetlands, without any natural foliage to protect the nest.

Mr Davidson said visitors could see the little family when they visited the beautiful new habitat at the Zoo, which has been a year in the making.

“Ground dwelling birds have evolved to be great parents as they’re vulnerable to predators, so it’s amazing to see them stick together as a family with the new chick,” Mr Davidson said.

“The birds are so charismatic, the new aviary is stunning, and visitors can enjoy sitting on the bench and observing the birds thriving in their environment.”

Black-winged stilts are Australian natives and usually live in marshes, mudflats and the shallow edges of lakes and rivers. The birds can occasionally be spotted at the Trin Warren Tam-boore wetlands in Royal Park.

They use their long beaks to eat aquatic insects as well as snails and yabbies that wade near the water’s edge.

Black-winged stilts are part of a Zoos Victoria regional breeding program. Zoos Victoria and Melbourne Zoo visitors are reminded that all tickets must be pre-booked online at zoo.org.au

Zoos Victoria members no longer need to book tickets. •

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