American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)
By Jon Piasecki, Houston Audubon Conservation Technician
Known for its long, upturned bill, the American Avocet is a wading bird that is commonly seen foraging in wetlands, salt ponds, mudflats and occasionally rice fields. This species breeds in parts of the western and midwestern United States as well as portions of southern Canada. They extend their wintering range to the Texas and Florida coasts, Mexico, and parts of the Caribbean.
American Avocets often utilize a technique called “scything” when they forage for invertebrates and small fish in shallow waters. They swing their bills side to side with each step in a continuous motion. Large flocks of avocet may forage this way in dense groups making for a magnificent display. Outside of “scything,” American Avocets may also peck into the water with their bills or plunge their entire necks into the water to capture prey.
During the breeding season, males will carry out displays in which they preen themselves, splashing water intensely. After forming a mating pair, the male and female will intertwine necks and run. Avocet pairs select a site for their nest together, usually picking an area with very little vegetation, often on islands. The nest is made by forming a scrape in the ground and adding objects such as grass or pebbles around the bowl. American Avocets typically lay a clutch of 3-4 green-brown, spotted eggs. The eggs hatch between 18-30 days after they are laid.
This time of year, large flocks of American Avocet can be seen all along the Bolivar Peninsula, from High Island beach to Bolivar Flats. Next time you are around mudflats or shallow water, be sure to check for these beautiful birds!
Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds!