They are found in brackish or saline wetlands in warm or hot climates.
They have extremely long legs, hence the group name, and long thin bills. Stilts typically feed on aquatic insects and other small creatures and nest on the ground surface in loose colonies.
The is some dispute about the taxonomy of the stilts. Handbook of Birds of the World recognises three species in two genera:
- Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
- Black Stilt Himantopus novaezelandiae
- Banded Stilt Cladorhynchus leucocephalus
However, ITIS places Banded Stilt in the Himantopus genus, and splits the American forms of Black-winged Stilt as distinct species:
A fossil stilt has been described as Himantopus olsoni, based on remains recovered in the Late Miocene Big Sandy Formation of Wickieup, USA.