American Avocet

American Avocet - breeding
American Avocet – breeding
American Avocet - non breeding
American Avocet – non-breeding

American Avocets are elegant black and white birds with long black bills and blue-gray legs. Breeding adults have oranged tinged heads and breasts.

Juveniles look more like older chicks, in that they have grayish-brown and downy feathers. Their bills are also still straight, without the upward curve at the end. 

  • Recurvirostra americana
  • Length: 18 – 20 in (46 – 51 cm)
  • Weight: 11.1 oz (315 g)
  • Wingspan: 27 – 38 in (69 – 97 cm)


American Avocets breed inland predominantly in western and central US states and spend winter along the Gulf Coast and Central American Coasts.

Habitat and Diet

You can find American Avocets in shallow water that’s less than eight inches deep. Breeding grounds are in areas with little vegetation.

During winter, you may find them in rice fields, flooded pastures, intertidal mudflats, and tidal lagoons. 

American Avocets forage for food while wading or swimming in shallow water. They usually catch small fish, shrimp, and seeds.

They move their bills from side to side in the water (called “scything”) to capture prey in their partially open bills.

American Avocet Calls:


Nests of American Avocets are scrapes on the ground, usually located on islands or mucky shorelines and close to the water, and lined with feathers or pebbles.

The female then lays up to four eggs that take three to four weeks to hatch. Young chicks can fend for themselves immediately after being born. 

Fun Fact:

American Avocets nest in loose colonies and defend their territories as a group. If a predator manages to penetrate the colony, it will find itself surrounded by several adult avocets trying to distract it.