The American Avocet

With its elegant profile and striking coloration, the American Avocet is unique among North American birds. In summer it can be found in wetlands across western North America where it swings its long upturned bill through the shallow water to catch small invertebrates.


  • Large shorebird. Long legs.
  • Long, upturned bill.
  • Black-and-white upperparts.
  • Rusty or gray neck and head.

Immature Description

Similar to adult, but head colored light buff.

  • In response to predators, the American Avocet sometimes issues a series of call notes that gradually changes pitch, simulating the Doppler effect and thus making its approach seem faster than it actually is.
  • Nesting American Avocets aggressively attack predators, sometimes physically striking Northern Harriers or Common Ravens.
  • A female American Avocet may lay one to four eggs in the nest of another female, who then incubates the eggs. American Avocets may parasitize other species’ nests too; single American Avocet eggs have been found in the nests of Mew Gulls. Other species may also parasitize avocet nests. Avocets have incubated mixed clutches of their own eggs and those of Common Terns or Black-necked Stilts. The avocets reared the stilt hatchlings as if they were their own.
  • American Avocet chicks leave the nest within 24 hours after hatching. Day-old avocets can walk, swim, and even dive to escape predators.
  • The oldest recorded American Avocet was over 15 years old, when it was found in California, where it had been banded a decade and a half earlier.

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