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American Avocet Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Recurvirostra americana
  • Class

    Birds
  • Order

    Charadriiformes
  • Range

    Breeds in the western United States, Canada and Mexico. Nonbreeding birds can be seen in the summer from New Jersey south to South Carolina.

  • Habitat

    Saltwater and freshwater ponds and marshes. The American avocet favors shallow, alkaline lakes, wet meadows and pastures with scattered, open pools.

  • Niche

    The American avocet feeds on seeds, aquatic insects and small crustaceans.

  • Life History

    American avocets form breeding colonies numbering dozens of pairs. When breeding is over the birds gather in large flocks, sometimes including hundreds of birds. Nesting occurs near water, usually on small islands or boggy shorelines where access by predators is difficult. The female lays four eggs in a saucer-shaped next, and both sexes take turns incubating them. Upon hatching, the chicks feed themselves; they are never fed by their parents. Parents will fake injuries near eggs or chicks to lure predators away, however.

  • Special Adaptations

    • The American avocet's unique beak is used to locate prey in water with low visibility. To hunt, the bird opens its bill in the water and sweeps it back and forth, snapping at any fish, crustaceans or insects it comes into contact with.
    • The American avocet's long legs and thin, pointed toes enable it to walk easily through varying depths of water.

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2001 North Clark Street • Chicago, IL 60614 • 312-742-2000

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