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Hawaiian Stilt or Ae`o

Hawaiian Stilt
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Hawaiian Stilt in Kauai

The Hawaiian Stilt or Ae`o as it is known in the Hawaiian language is a long-legged shoreline bird closely related to the black-necked stilts widely found elsewhere. Once hunted as a game bird, the Hawaiian Stilt is an endangered species. It is estimated that only about 1500 birds exist today.

The stilt is able to fly from island to island and it is found in nearly all major islands of the Hawaiian chain. Their long pink legs seem perfect for water depths up to about 9 inches where they feed on worms, small crabs, aquatic insects, and small fish. They nest on freshly exposed mud flats with low growing vegetation from March through August with peak nesting occurring in May and June. The taro fields of Hanalei in Kauai offer ideal habitat and stilts can be found wading through freshly harvested taro. Stilts will pretend to have an injured wing to draw predators away from their nests.

Hawaiian Stilts are endangered due to hunting, loss of habitat, environmental contaminants, and introduced predators such as feral cats, rats, mongoose, and bullfrogs. Other avian predators include owls, herons, and Cattle egrets. Hunting or shooting the Hawaiian Stilt is illegal.

Pictures and Comments By Doug Porter

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