Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus is one of the two qualifying species of the Special Protection Area (SPA) of Oroklini Lake and one of the main species targeted by the LIFE Oroklini project. Oroklini Lake is the best nesting site in Cyprus for this species.
The Black-winged Stilt is a migratory species that breeds in Cyprus and also a passage migrant during spring. Some birds were recorded wintering in Cyprus (i.e. in 2010 and 2011 at Oroklini).
This wader reaches 33-36 cm in length and is found in wetlands of shallow fresh, brackish or salt water. Its characteristic long legs allow this bird to feed on insects in deeper water than used by other waders.
The Black-winged Stilt nests on islets with vegetation or near water and occasionally on a raised mound of vegetation in shallow water. It is quite noisy during breeding season and it chases potential predators that approach the colony while it squeaks loud.
It is an unmistakable bird with an extraordinarily elegant figure. It has a needle-fine, straight bill, characteristic long redish-pink legs and black and white plumage. The two sexes differ between them, the male having whole upperparts green-glossed black while the female has a glossy brown mantle and scapulars forming a brown saddle that contrasts with the black wings.
The Black-winged Stilt is a species on Annex I of the Birds Directive (2009/147/EU) which is considered secure at European level. The species nests in large numbers in Spain and Turkey but otherwise breeding populations in other countries are relatively small. The breeding population in Cyprus is estimated between 80-140 pairs annually depending on water levels, but the species is very sensitive to drought and changes of the water level.
The large populations in Western Europe mean that the western European population is quite secure, however in Eastern Europe the large Turkish population declined between 990-2000. That means that the regional populations in Eastern Europe, such as that of Cyprus, become more important, especially at EU level. Oroklini Lake hosts between 40-70 pairs depending on water levels. The maximum number of nests was recorded in 2007, a year with high water levels, reaching as many as 75 pairs. Other important sites for the Black-winged Stilt are Larnaca Salt Lake, Paralimni lake, Achna Dam, and Aradippou area.