American Avocet

American Avocet

Scientific Classification

Common Name
American avocet
Genus Species
Recurvirosta (backward curved beak) americana (of America)

Fast Facts

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 female's bill curves up a little bit more than in the male.
Approximately 41 to 51 cm (16.4 to 20.4 in.)
Approximately 300 to 420 g (11 to 15 oz.)
Includes crustaceans and other aquatic animals and plant life
22 to 24 days
Clutch Size
3 to 5 eggs
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 1 year
Life Span
Averages 5 years
This species has an extremely large range and can be found in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States, Venezuela, and Bolivia.
Inhabits mudflats, saline lakes, fresh water and saltwater marshes, and coastal bays
The total population is very large with at least 10,000 mature individuals. The population appears to be stable and is not severely fragmented.
IUCN: Least Concern
CITES: Not listed
USFWS:  Not listed

Fun Facts

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. If the water rises, 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.

Avocets will defend themselves using 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.

Ecology and Conservation

The loss of suitable nesting habitat and the destruction of wetlands are the primary threats to these birds. Nests are also 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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Perrins, C. M. and Dr. Alex L.A. Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File Pub. 1985.

Perrins, C. M. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds: The Definitive Reference to Birds of the World. New York: Prentice Hall Press. 1990.

Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S. Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc. 1966.

Thompson, P. 2002. "Recurvirostra americana" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web.

United States Geological Survey.

BirdLife International. 2016. Recurvirostra americana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22693717A93418724. Downloaded on 29 November 2018.