Of Black-necked Stilts, Ruffs and Rails

Several avian rarities have shown up recently at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge.

At Cayuga Sub-impoundment, also known as Kumpf Marsh, an elegant black-on-top and white below Black-necked Stilt showed up! The stilt stayed for about a week, wowing many who came to view it. Like all our shorebirds, the stilt used Iroquois as a critical way station, feeding on invertebrates found in the rich mud which will fuel its migration northward.

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Ruff - photo by Celeste Morien
Ruff – photo by Celeste Morien

Then, unbelievably, the stilt was upstaged by another unusual visitor, a Ruff, apparently off course by a few miles! These birds winter in Africa and migrate to the Arctic to breed. The Ruff spent several days alongside the drawn down section of Kanyoo Trail, allowing distant looks. Many people had this Ruff as their life bird, including our own Biologist, Paul Hess.

King Rail at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge - photo by Daniel Rosentreter
King Rail at Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge – photo by Daniel Rosentreter

And then, as if the stilt and the ruff were not enough to satisfy, an extremely rare or a “MEGA!”bird announced its presence with loud “kiddicks” at Kumpf! This unusual King Rail became the star of the show. King Rails are found year round in a narrow coastal band of the US from southern Texas to North Carolina. King Rails occasionally breed farther north, so fingers crossed that our bird finds a mate and breeds on the refuge.

It’s known that late May and early June can be an exciting time for birding. As you can see, it certainly has been at Iroquois!