Hawaiian Stilt

Himantopus mexicanus knudseni / Ae‘o
Hawaiian Stilt

The ae‘o is a slender wading bird that grows up to 15 inches in length. It has a black back and white forehead, and is white below; the female has a tinge of brown on its back. This endangered species has very long pink legs and a long black bill. The Hawaiian subspecies differs from the North American stilt by having more black on its face and neck, and longer bill, tarsus, and tail.

Ae‘o were historically known to be on all the major islands except Lana‘i and Kaho‘olawe. As with the other Hawaiian waterbirds, historic numbers are unknown. It is believed that there were about 1,000 of them in the late 1940s. The ae‘o can still be found on all the major islands except Kaho‘olawe, but their numbers have not increased by much. Threats to the stilt and other water birds include the loss of wetland habitats and introduced predators. The ae‘o can also be seen at Kakahaia NWR on Moloka‘i, and Kealia Pond NWR on Maui, as well as other wetlands around the state.


Ae‘o use a variety of aquatic habitats. Nest sites are frequently separated from feeding sites and stilts move between these areas daily. Nesting sites are adjacent to or on low islands within bodies of fresh, brackish, or salt water.

Feeding habitats are shallow bodies of water providing them with a wide variety of invertebrates and other aquatic organisms (worms, crabs, fish). They like to loaf in open mudflats, pickle weed mats, and open pasture lands where visibility is good and predator populations are low.

Ae‘o have a fairly distinctive nesting season from January through July.

Facts About Hawaiian Stilt

Invertebrates and other aquatic organisms (worms, crabs, fish)
Life Span
Length: 35–39 cm (13.8–15.4 in); wingspan: 71 cm (28 in)