American Avocet Life History


Habitat MarshesShallow fresh and saltwater wetlands.Back to top


Food Aquatic invertebratesAquatic invertebrates.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Nest Description

A scrape in the ground, lined with grass or other vegetation, feathers, pebbles, or other small objects, or completely unlined.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:3-4 eggs
Egg Description:Greenish brown with irregular dark spots. Pointed on one end.
Condition at Hatching:Downy and able to walk.
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Behavior ProbingIn its pre-copulation display, the male American Avocet preens himself with water, gradually gaining intensity to the point of frenzied splashing just before he mounts the female. After copulating, the pair intertwines their necks and runs forward.In territory establishment and in self-defense, performs elaborate ritualized displays. One notable display involves two pairs, or a pair and a third individual, facing each other in a circle and then stretching their bills toward each other. Upon the approach of a terrestrial predator, may approach the predator with a teetering gait and outstretched wings, as if on a tightrope. Also crouches on the ground as if incubating, only to move and crouch again in a new location.Feeds in shallow water, while wading or swimming. Locates food by sight and snaps it up, or sweeps its long bill through the water, capturing prey by touch.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernPopulations declined in the 1960s and 1970s, largely from the loss of wetlands from water diversion for human use. Contamination of wetland habitat with selenium caused increased developmental abnormalities and mortality. Since 1995, owners of selenium-contaminated sites in northern California have been required to provide safe wetland habitat for the species. Breeding success on the newly created sites has been much greater than initially expected, but long-term prospects for breeding at these sites are not clear. Since 2004 numbers appear to be increasing in many areas according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. They are not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List.Back to top


Ackerman, Joshua T., C. Alex Hartman, Mark P. Herzog, John Y. Takekawa, Julie A. Robinson, Lewis W. Oring, Jospeh P. Skorupa and Ruth Boettcher. 2013. American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center 2014b. Available from

Sibley, David Allen. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A Knopf, New York.

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