Happy Birthday – Skippy at National Aviary

Black-necked Stilt - Skippy

"Skippy" - Black-necked Stilt

Today is the 23rd birthday of “Skippy” the Black-necked Stilt. We met him on Friday at the National Aviary in Pittsburg, PA. Dan and I had the privilege of visiting  the National Aviary recently and thoroughly enjoyed our two days we spent there. “Skippy” is not on exhibit, but is behind the scenes and well taken care of by the hospital staff.

We were given some very special treatment at the Aviary and were allowed to see several of their “behind-the-scenes” operations. The hospital, breeding room, kitchen, an outdoor exhibit (closed right now) and other places were shown. I am thankful for meeting the “bird nurse” the day before our visit at a book store. I was looking at the bird books (of course) when I met Sarah. Long story short, she told us that she would show us around and did she ever. This is just the first of the articles to be written about the Aviary.

National Aviary Hospital Sign

National Aviary Hospital

We were in the Hospital section where the older birds are kept. These are ones who have been active in shows or have just been there a long time and are sort of in their “geriatric” stage of life. The birds there are kept comfortable and their health is maintained as well as can be. They are all very special and each had a story attached to them. I sort of felt right a home in there, since I have my fair share of aches and pains as I age.

We met “Skippy” who is kept in an area that has a fence (around it to create a pen). I may not get all the details right (I’m getting old, remember), but when his life long mate died, he wanted to give up and was very sad. That caused his health to deteriorate and he ended up in the “hospital.”  In memory of his sweetheart, they had painted a mural on the wall. One day he discovered the painting of his mate and parked right there beside it. His health started improving. They decided to put a fence around that area and that is where we found him the other day.

Today is Skippy’s birthday and he turns 23. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SKIPPY! He is one of the longest known living Black-necked Stilts. The photo shows him beside the painting of his mate and a part of his pen. There is a mirror hanging there which he love to look in.

Black-necked Stilt at Circle B Bar Reserve

Black-necked Stilt at Circle B Bar Reserve by Lee

Black-necked Stilts (Himantopus mexicanus) are in Recurvirostridae Family which includes Avocets and Stilts. There are only 11 species in the family. They are in the Charadriiformes Order. This Stilt is a locally abundant shorebird of American wetlands and coastlines. We see them quite frequently around our area. I saw my first one in 2000 in the Rockport, TX.

“Adults have long pink legs and a long thin black bill. They are white below and have black wings and backs. The tail is white with some grey banding. A continuous area of black extends from the back along the hindneck to the head. There, it forms a cap covering the entire head from the top to just below eye-level, with the exception of the areas surrounding the bill and a small white spot above the eye. Males have a greenish gloss to the back and wings, particularly in the breeding season. This is less pronounced or absent in females, which have a brown tinge to these areas instead. Otherwise, the sexes look alike. (From Wikipedia)

They usually have 3-5 young and both of them take turn incubating the eggs for 22-26 days. The young can be swimming within 2 hours of birth. Check out the Aviary’s webpage on the Black-necked Stilt for more information about it.

Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven? (Job 35:11)

Is it wrong to be sad when someone dies? I think Skippy was only showing his love and concern for the bird he had spent so much time with.

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him (Lazarus)? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! (John11:33-36)