Nesting of the Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) at Densu delta Ramsar site, Ghana

Emmanuel Nii Attram Taye1 2, Jones K. Quartey¹², Alfred Ali Nuoh¹ and Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu¹².

¹Centre for African Wetlands, University of Ghana

²Department of Animal Biology and Conservation Science, University of Ghana

Wetlands along the Ghana coast support resident populations of the Black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus), as well as non-breeding migrant populations during the northern winter. We studied the breeding ecology of the Black-winged stilt at the Densu Delta Ramsar site situated on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana, focusing on three nesting sites within the wetland. Sites 1 and 2 were salt pans where the birds nested mainly on the bonds between pans. Site three (3) was flat land with vegetation and adjacent to a mudflat. The breeding season in 2016 started early March and ended late July. We visited the site daily at the beginning of the breeding season and continued with fortnightly visits to the end of the breeding season. 159 nests containing 479 eggs were located and monitored, out of which 76 (47.8%) were successful. Clutch size ranged from 1-4 eggs (mean, 3.12 ± 1.19). The mean laying period varied with clutch size ranging from 3.3±0.6 days for clutch size of 2 to 5.5±0.9 days for clutch size of 4; mean incubation period was 18±2.9 days. Eggs sizes averaged 42.15 ± 0.26 in length and 30.56 ± 0.18 in width. Aggressive behavior was observed to be intense during the peak laying and hatching period. Black-winged stilts employ aggregation and aggressive displays to ward off predators and chase off other waders in fierce attacks during the peak hatching period. The greatest threats to breeding Black-winged stilts on the Ghana coast were flooding of nesting sites and egg predation by wandering dogs.

Key words: Black-winged stilt, breeding waders, coastal wetlands, nest predation, nesting success