Species profile

Name: there are four species of avocets known for their unusual upwards curving bills – the American avocet (Recurvirostra americana), Andean avocet (Recurvirostra andina), pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), and red-necked avocet (Recurvirostra novaehollandiae). Their Latin name comes from the word ‘recurvus’ meaning ‘curved backwards’ and ‘rostrum’ which means ‘bill’.

Appearance: avocets are graceful birds with long elegant legs and sweeping up-curved bills. The four species can be recognised by their different colouring: American avocets are black and white with orange-red necks and heads, Adean avocets are white with black wings and tails, pied avocets are similar but with black heads and pied wings, while red-necked avocets have rich chestnut brown heads and necks.

Size: each of the four species are similar sized, with a length of around 45 cm, a wingspan of around 70 cm, and a weight of around 350 grams.

Diet: avocets feed in shallow brackish water or mudflats, moving their long bills from side to side to filter out crustaceans and insects from the water.

Did you know: pied avocets became extinct in the UK in the 1840s thanks to egg collectors and taxidermists. However, in the Second World War, a bomb blew a hole in the sea wall at Havergate Island, just along the coast from the RSPB’s Minsmere Reserve. As the tidal river flooded in, it created the perfect conditions for this beautiful bird. Thanks to this and ongoing conservation efforts, they can now be seen in the East and South West of England. They have even become the logo for the RSPB following their successful recolonisation of the UK.

Location: avocets can generally be found in mudflats or shallow wetland areas that are either fresh or saltwater. American avocets are found in the US, Mexico, and Canada and pied avocets are found in Europe and Asia. While Andean avocets are found in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, and red-necked avocets in Australia.

Where to see Avocets

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see avocets in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Rye Harbour
very high
very good
Isle of Sheppey

Photo credit: 127071 under a Creative Commons licence from Pixabay

Leave a Reply