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American Avocet Recurvirostra americana


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American Avocet, breeding
credit: Kevin Cole/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Recurvirostridae, Stilts and Avocets view all from this family

Description ADULT In summer, has orange-buff flush to head and neck. Underparts are white and upperparts are black with white on scapulars and upper back. In winter, buffy elements of plumage become whitish. JUVENILE Similar to dull summer adult with washed out orange-buff coloration and pale edges to back feathers.

Dimensions Length: 16-20" (41-51 cm)

Habitat Locally common in breeding season but mostly outside range of this book; favors shallow lakes, muddy ponds, and marshes. In winter, mainly coastal, found on pools and mudflats along Gulf coast and on Atlantic coast to North Carolina.

Observation Tips Easy to observe and identify.

Range Southeast, California, Eastern Canada, Mid-Atlantic, Florida, Great Lakes, Northwest, Western Canada, Plains, New England, Texas, Rocky Mountains, Southwest

Voice Utters a sharp kweet.

Discussion Elegant wading bird. Despite seasonal differences in plumage, unmistakable with black and white plumage overall, extremely long pale bluish legs, and slender, upcurved bill. Long, thin bill is swept from side-to-side in shallow water, collecting tiny invertebrate prey. Looks striking in flight: seen from above, black wingtips, outer wing coverts, and scapular stripes contrast with otherwise white plumage. Sexes are similar, but male's bill is straighter than female's.