Description of the American Avocet
The American Avocet is a tall, graceful shorebird with very long, bluish legs, black upperparts broadly striped with white, and a very long, recurved bill. Pale rusty head and neck in breeding plumage.
Photograph © Greg Lavaty
Winter plumage. Photograph © Greg Lavaty
The sexes are similar, though females have bills that are more strongly curved. Compare the two bills in this image.
Seasonal change in appearance
Winter birds have pale grayish heads and necks.
Juveniles have paler heads and necks than breeding adults.
American Avocets inhabit ponds, mudflats, and shallow lakes, as well as beaches.
American Avocets eat insects and small crustaceans.
American Avocets forage by sweeping their bills just below the surface of the water, and by gleaning from the surface of the ground or water.
American Avocets breed throughout much of the western U.S. and southwestern Canada. They winter along the Gulf Coast and in Mexico. The population is stable.
Bent Life History
Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the American Avocet.
The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.
Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History
American Avocets are aggressive and vocal in defense of their nests.
American Avocets often nest in loose colonies.
Vocalizations consist of a single-note "wheet."
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