Black stilt

One of the world’s rarest birds, with less than 200 individuals remaining in the wild

Dick Veitch – Department of Conservation

Black stilt


One of the world’s rarest birds, with less than 200 individuals remaining in the wild

Population 169
30% increase in population

The Black Stilt, also known as kakī in Mori, is a critically endangered wading bird endemic to New Zealand. With just 169 adults remaining in the wild as of May 2020, it stands as one of the rarest and most imperiled bird species globally. Recognized for its distinctive long, slender black beak, striking black plumage, and remarkably long pink legs, the Black Stilt cuts a striking figure against the backdrop of New Zealand’s scenic landscapes.

Historically, the Black Stilt inhabited the braided riverbeds and wetlands of the Mackenzie Basin on the South Island of New Zealand. However, its population has dramatically declined due to a myriad of threats, including predation by introduced species such as feral cats, ferrets, and hedgehogs. Additionally, habitat degradation stemming from human activities, such as the construction of hydropower dams and agricultural expansion, has further exacerbated the species’ decline. The spread of invasive vegetation, which alters the natural habitat structure and reduces suitable breeding and foraging grounds, poses yet another challenge to the survival of the Black Stilt in its native range.

Conservation efforts aimed at safeguarding the Black Stilt have been ongoing for decades, driven by a collective commitment to prevent the species from slipping into extinction. These efforts include captive breeding programs, habitat restoration initiatives, predator control measures, and public awareness campaigns. Despite these concerted conservation actions, the Black Stilt remains perilously close to the brink of extinction, highlighting the urgent need for continued and intensified conservation efforts.

In the 1940s, the Black Stilt population was estimated to be between 500 and 1000 individuals, underscoring the drastic decline that has occurred over the past century. Today, the species teeters on the edge of extinction, with its survival contingent upon the successful mitigation of ongoing threats and the implementation of effective conservation strategies.


Population est.
New Zealand
Official estimate

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic / Monomorphic (size)

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No