Living Bird Magazine
American AvocetRecurvirostra americana
- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Recurvirostridae
The American Avocet takes elegance to a new level. This long-legged wader glides through shallow waters swishing its slender, upturned bill from side to side to catch aquatic invertebrates. It dons a sophisticated look for summer with a black-and-white body and a rusty head and neck. During the winter the head and neck turn a grayish white, but the bird loses none of its elegance as it forages along coastal waters or rests while standing on one leg.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Finding an American Avocet means getting to the right habitat. In shallow wetlands, their black-and-white bodies, long, upturned bill, and elegant profile stand out among the other wading birds. They generally forage in shallow water with little vegetation to hide them, and they nest in areas almost lacking vegetation altogether. They breed around wetlands in dry parts of interior North America, but during the winter, many of them head to coastal lagoons, salt ponds, and mudflats. Here they often forage with the smaller Black-necked Stilt.
- Avoceta Americana (Spanish)
- Avocette d'Amérique (French)
- Cool Facts
- In response to predators, the American Avocet gives a series of call notes that gradually rise in pitch, simulating the Doppler effect and making its approach seem faster than it actually is.
- A female American Avocet sometimes lays eggs in the nest of another female, who incubates them without noticing. This is called “brood parasitism,” and American Avocets may do it to other species, too; American Avocet eggs have been found in the nests of Mew Gulls. On the other hand, species such as Common Terns and Black-necked Stilts may also parasitize avocet nests. In the case of the stilts, the avocets reared the hatchlings as if they were their own.
- American Avocets place their nests directly on the ground without the benefit of shrubs to provide shade. To keep the eggs from overheating during incubation, they dip their belly feathers in water.
- American Avocet chicks leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching. Day-old avocets can walk, swim, and even dive to escape predators.
- The oldest recorded American Avocet was at least 15 years old when it was found in California, where it had been banded a decade and a half earlier.