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Species Guide
A photo of a Banded Stilt (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus)
Banded Stilt

Banded Stilt

Cladorhynchus leucocephalus

The Banded Stilt (Cladorhynchus leucocephalus) is a striking and nomadic wader belonging to the stilt and avocet family, Recurvirostridae. It is the sole member of the genus Cladorhynchus, endemic to Australia. The species is characterized by its pied plumage and a distinctive red-brown breast band in breeding adults, which can be mottled or absent in non-breeding adults and juveniles. The eyes are a deep, dark brown, and nestlings are uniquely covered in white down.

Identification Tips

Adult Banded Stilts measure between 45–53 cm in length, with a wingspan of 55–68 cm. They possess black wings, a slender black bill twice the length of the head, and dark red-pink legs and feet. The broad chestnut band across the breast is a key identifier for breeding adults. In flight, their wings reveal a white trailing edge and a predominantly white underside with dark tips. Juveniles lack the breast band and have greyish foreheads and lores.


Banded Stilts favor large, shallow saline or hypersaline lakes, both inland and coastal. They are also found in ephemeral salt lakes, saltworks, lagoons, salt- or claypans, and intertidal flats, occasionally venturing into brackish or freshwater environments.


This species is predominantly found in southern Australia, with sightings from the southwest corner of Western Australia to the Lake Eyre basin and Victoria. They are highly nomadic, responding to the unpredictable climate by migrating to newly filled inland lakes after rainfall.


Banded Stilts are gregarious birds, often seen in groups ranging from small flocks to congregations of tens of thousands. They exhibit extreme nomadism, traveling vast distances in response to inland rainfall.

Song & Calls

The vocal repertoire includes a barking call resembling 'cow' or 'chowk,' sometimes doubled as 'chowk-uk' or 'chuk-uk.' During nesting, they engage in soft, tuneful chattering.


Breeding is triggered by rainfall filling inland salt lakes, creating ideal conditions for large breeding colonies. Females lay three to four brown- or black-splotched whitish eggs on a scrape. If conditions allow, a second brood may be laid. Nestlings are precocial and nidifugous, leaving the nest shortly after hatching.

Similar Species

The Banded Stilt can be distinguished from the White-headed Stilt, which lacks the breast band, and the Red-necked Avocet, which has a chestnut head and neck and an upcurved bill.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet consists mainly of tiny crustaceans such as brine shrimp and fairy shrimp, as well as molluscs, insects, and occasionally small fish. They forage by walking or swimming in shallow waters, employing various techniques to capture their prey.

Conservation status

The Banded Stilt is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, with a large range and fluctuating population. However, it is listed as Vulnerable under the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 due to predation threats, particularly from silver gulls. Conservation efforts include managing silver gull predation at breeding sites.

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Banded Stilts on Birda

A map showing the sighting location
Profile picture for Angus Hamilton
Angus Hamilton
30 Mar 2023 - 2:26pm

More Stilts, Avocets

A photo of a Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) , male

Black-winged Stilt

Himantopus himantopus
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