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American avocet, blue shanks
(backward curved beak)
The American avocet is a long-legged shorebird with a distinctive long, thin bill that curves upward. It has a black and white striped pattern on the back and sides. During the breeding season, the head and neck are pinkish-tan and during the winter a grayish-white color. The legs and feet are bluish-gray in color.
The bill curves up a little bit more than in the male.
Approximately 41-51 cm (16.4-20.4 in.)
Approximately 300-420 g (11-15 oz.)
Includes crustaceans and other aquatic animals and plant life
Approximately 1 year
Averages 5 years
Inhabits mudflats, saline lakes, fresh water and saltwater marshes, and coastal bays
Avocets feed by thrusting their bill underwater and swinging it side to side along the bottom to stir up aquatic insects.
Their nests are little more than depressions in the sand or platforms of grass on mudflats. Should the water rise, the breeding pair raises the nest a foot or more with sticks, weeds, bones, and feathers to keep the eggs above water.
After hatching, the young not only feed themselves, but they can also swim.
As a defense, avocets usually use distraction tactics such as loud screeching, a "crippled bird" act, and even a "dive bomb" display where the bird will swoop down on the predator and narrowly miss it until the intruder turns away.
Shorebirds embark on one of the longest migrations of any North American birds, journeying from arctic nesting grounds to winter in Central and South America. Many species travel more than 15,000 miles round-trip and flying at altitudes exceeding 10,000 feet at 50 mph!
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Loss of breeding habitats as well as alteration or destruction of wetlands is of concern. Nests are susceptible to trampling by cattle, flooding, and pollution. The small breeding population also makes the species susceptible to random climate and environmental changes.
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The Encyclopedia of Birds
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Birds of North America
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" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/
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