This documentary tells the story of the world’s rarest wading bird, the black stilt (kakī). With its precise beak and long pink legs the stilt is superbly adapted to the stony braided riverbeds of the Mackenzie Country, but it is tragically unable to deal with new threats (rats, ferrets, habitat loss). An early documentary for TVNZ’s Natural History Unit, the magnificently filmed drama of the stilt’s struggle for survival makes it "stand out as a classic of its genre" (as writer Russell Campbell puts it in this backgrounder). The Black Stilt won the Gold Award at New York’s International Film & TV Festival in 1984.
Stilts are sharp-eyed observers, and extremely sensitive to any strange new items or persons appearing in their living area. We set up our rather obvious hide well in advance of using it, so that they would get used to its presence ... now we had to get the cameraman in position ... as most birds can't count, the best bluff for this was to accompany him as a group, drop him off with his camera, then leave. The stilts seemed to assume that the entire group of intruders had arrived and left together...– Authors Rod Morris and Hal Smith on making this documentary, in 1988 book Wild South: Saving New Zealand's Endangered Birds, page 96