Size medium; slender build; legs very long, red; bill long, slender, straight; mostly white; back and wings black (male) or brown (female). Immature: Like female with greyish nape and hindneck. Chick: Above yellowish grey, with irregular black stripes; below buffy white; iris dark brown; bill shortish, black; legs and feet pinkish grey; weighs about 17 g at hatching.
Voice: Puppylike yapping yip-yip-yip-yip, loud and penetrating; shrill chek-chek-chek alarm call.
Almost worldwide, except n Holarctic and S America; throughout s Africa.
Locally common resident; highly nomadic.
Shallow waters of estuaries, pans, dams, sewage ponds, vleis and marshes.
Solitary or gregarious; occasionally in large flocks of up to 500 birds. Forages by wading quickly with high-stepping gait in shallow water (rarely by swimming) sweeping bill over surface and pecking at food; may submerge head and neck. Flight somewhat flapping, long legs trailing out behind, often accompanied by loud calls.
Insects, crustaceans, molluscs, worms, seeds.
Season: April to November in Zimbabwe, October to November in e Cape, April to September in Natal; probably most months in s Africa, depending on rainfall, but usually in dry season in E. Nest: Scrape on ground or mud, lined with twigs, grass, and mudpellets; sometimes substantial pile of plant material built up in shallow water or on floating water plants.
"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." ~ Anatole France