By MDC | March 1, 2021
From Missouri Conservationist: March 2021

Got a Question for Ask MDC? Send it to or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q: I noticed this black-necked stilt at Otter Slough Conservation Area last March. Are they common?

As transient migrants in spring or fall, black-necked stilts are considered rare or casual visitors statewide. In summer they do breed occasionally in southeast Missouri. Most observers see them during migration as they forage on mudflats, shorelines, and shallow wastewater lagoons. In summer, these stilts may be seen in the rice fields in the Bootheel’s lowlands.

Like most other shorebirds, black-necked stilts are ground nesters. Both parents participate in nest construction, egg incubation, and rearing the chicks. Choosing an area raised higher than the water level, they scrape a ground depression and line it with grass, rocks, and other objects. A clutch comprises two to five eggs, which hatch in 24–29 days. As with most other ground-nesting birds, the young are precocial — relatively well developed, covered in down, and able to walk.

Black-necked stilts usually nest in colonies, and their numbers permit them to defend their nests as a group. When an intruder appears, numbers of adults fly into the air, circling and calling. They also may mislead or distract intruders, similar to killdeer, by feigning sick or injured behavior or by plopping on the ground as if sitting on a pretend nest.

Q: A duck laid and buried six eggs in a planter on my deck and now a goose laid more and is sitting on the eggs. What will happen now?

Most ducks lay approximately an egg a day and don’t start sitting on the nest to incubate until after the entire clutch — around eight to 12 eggs — has been laid. Geese, too, lay approximately an egg daily, making it unlikely the duck eggs will be incubated properly. Geese also are known for removing foreign objects from their nests, which also raises uncertainty. But if the eggs are viable, the ducklings will likely hatch before the goslings do. MDC’s waterfowl scientists are not sure how the mother goose might respond. If she adopts them, it could still be tough for the ducklings to thrive. She’ll likely lead the brood to grassy areas, which will be less-than-ideal for the ducklings. Unfortunately, we must rate the likelihood of the ducks’ survival as low. But a small possibility of a mixed brood does exist. It could get interesting!

Q: We found this on a tree. What is it?

This is an ootheca — the egg case of a Chinese mantis. Female mantids lay these foamy egg cases on vegetation in the fall, where they harden and remain until spring. The cases hatch in late spring after several weeks of warm weather. Each ootheca can contain hundreds of eggs and typically hatch 50 to 200 tiny mantids simultaneously.

Chinese mantids are widespread throughout much of the United States but are not originally native to North America. These insects are quite large — around 4 inches in length as adults. They eat other insects, both pest and beneficial species, as well as larger prey. It has been noted they occasionally take small frogs, lizards, and even hummingbirds.

This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber

Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld

Associate Editor - Larry Archer

Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek

Art Director - Cliff White

Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter

Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner

Circulation - Laura Scheuler