The avocet is a genus of waders that reside near bodies of fresh and saltwater around the world. Their long, vigorous legs make it look like they are walking on stilts! The name avocet is believed to derive from a local Italian name avosetta. They are more closely related to other birds that live and feed near bodies of water.
- Given the possibility, the avocet appears to prefer salty habitats to freshwater ones, but both habitat types are suitable for its needs.
- A multicolored avocet design adorns the emblem of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a charity in England and Wales. This species was indeed extinct in Britain in the early 20th century, but recovery from the marshes in the 1940s brought it back.
- The avocet is sometimes confused with the close relationship with the knight of Italy. The main difference is that stilts have longer legs with red or orange colors, while avocets have softer colors such as gray or black on their shorter but still very long legs.
Where to Find
Avocet is widely distributed near beaches, plains, lakes, and ponds around the world. The genus contains four species, each with its own geographical distribution. The American avocet is endemic to Mexico, the western United States, and parts of the Atlantic coast.
The Andean avocet is endemic to much of the Pacific of South America. The multicolored avocet has a wide range on the coast of Europe, Africa, and Central and South Asia. Finally, the red-necked avocet is native to Australia.
Avocet bird nests
The avocet prefers to nest in loosely organized colonies near the shore of large bodies of water. Built within small depressions, the nest consists of little more than bare soil, pebbles, and other debris. If the water level rises, birds can build their nest on a foot-high mound.
The scientific name of the avocet is Recurvirostra. Although this word seems difficult to pronounce at first glance, it is actually a combination of two simpler Latin words: recurves, which means curved back, and rostrum, which means invoice. The avocet is closely related to the long-legged stilts of the Recurvirostridae family.
A beautiful bird: Avocet look
Measuring up to 20 inches from head to tail (with a wingspan of around 30 inches from tip to tip), the avocet is a long, sturdy bird with a number of distinctive features. Long, bluish or greyish legs are suitable for entering the water. The webbed feet enable them to become good swimmers. And the long beak is a very well suited feeding tool. The feathers are a combination of black, white, red, and brown.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature (aside from the long legs) is the long, slender beak with an upward-pointing tip at the end. To feed, the avocet will go into the shallow water, lean forward and place the tip of its beak slightly open at the bottom. By sweeping its head from side to side, the avocet can remove small prey hiding in the ground and then filter the bits of food with its beak.
Females and males are generally similar in appearance, but in some species, it is the account that reveals this. The female has a shorter, upward beak than the longer, straighter beak of the male.
Outside of their normal breeding season, avocets occupy large, hoarse colonies of hundreds. While not exactly a cooperative animal, they will team up to aggressively defend the colony from predators and threats (although they will sometimes allow stilts to hang out with them).
These smart birds have all kinds of strategies for dealing with predators. Sometimes they will make loud, irritating sounds to distract you. Or they pretend to be injured to ward off the predator. They can also throw dive bombs at the predator to scare it away.
To communicate with each other, avocets make loud, repetitive sounds that increase in intensity over time. Each of these calls mutually transmits certain information about the identity of the individual or the presence of an invader. To attract a mate, avocet males combine their calls with complex displays of squatting, dancing, and bowing.
The avocet is a twilight bird, which means it is most active during the hours of sunrise and sunset. With their webbed feet, avocets are excellent swimmers. In addition to their standard beak feeding behavior, avocets sometimes “roll” like ducks in deeper water. This is when the lower half is dipped in water as it arrives to feed. They are also very knowledgeable flyers who travel very long distances.
Time and pattern of migration
The avocet exhibits distinctive migration patterns throughout the year. The American avocet, for example, prefers to breed over a large area between New Mexico and southern Canada. In the winter season, travel south to Mexico or east to Florida and the Atlantic coast.
The multicolored avocet, on the other hand, breeds in Europe and Central Asia. Some populations travel to southern Africa to overwinter, although other populations remain much closer to their breeding grounds.
According to studies of the American avocet, this species, at least, is known to like to form a strong monogamous bond with its mate. You will show interest in a partner by exhibiting a series of elaborate courtship rituals such as squatting and bowing. This is the only species of the four that has reproductive plumage, almost pink or red when it’s time to mate.
The American avocet produces an average of four eggs per brood. Both parents will take turns incubating the eggs for about three to four weeks. Born with soft feathers, the young chicks are ready to start an independent life shortly after hatching, because they already have the ability to hunt and swim on their own. They will develop feathers fast enough to take their first flight around four to five weeks of age.
This bird can live up to 15 years in the wild, but the American avocet has a life expectancy of around nine years on average. Since it takes about a year to reach sexual maturity, the avocet has relatively fewer breeding seasons to successfully raise offspring.
The IUCN Red List has determined that all four species deserve the least concern classification, which means they are not endangered. The bird was once widely hunted in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but according to Partners in Flight population estimates, there could be up to 450,000 mature American avocets in the wild, thanks in part to the protection of the Migratory Bird Act. Reports indicate it is becoming more common in the eastern United States as well.
The biggest threat to this bird today is habitat loss. It is estimated that in the first 200 years of US history, about 60 acres of wetlands were lost every hour. Scientists have finally begun to recognize and appreciate the importance that wetlands play in the ecosystem and numerous remediation projects are underway to restore the environments to their original condition. In addition to environmental degradation, another threat to avocets is that their nests are sometimes destroyed by flooding, contamination and trampling.