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Pied Avocet Fact File

Appearance

The pied avocet is a wading bird which has long legs and a long bill to help with feeding in deep water. Their bill is thin and upturned at the end. It is used to sweep through the water to find food. Males tend to have a longer, straighter bill than the females.

Their name refers to the pied coloration of black and white. Most of their body is covered by the white feathers with black patches across the crown and along the back of the neck along with across the wings.

Pied avocets have long legs which are colored bluish-grey.

Their body measures 42-46cm (16.5-18in) long with a wingspan of between 67 and 77cm (26.4-30.3in) across. They have an average weight of 225-400g (8-14oz).

Diet

The pied avocet is a carnivore. Most of their diet is made up of crustaceans, insects, worms, molluscs and occasionally fish and plant matter.

To find food they will place their sensitive bill in the water and sweep it through the soft mud. If they see food elsewhere they will quickly lunge at it and submerge their head to catch it.

pied avocet

Scientific Name

Recurvirostra avosetta

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

225-400g (8-14oz)

Length

42-46cm (16.5-18in)

Wingspan

67-77cm (26.4-30.3in)

Lifespan

16 years

Diet

Carnivorous

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Range

Pied avocets have a wide range across Africa, Europe and Asia. Here they can be found in Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Western Sahara, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The species has been declared extinct in Turkmenistan.

Habitat

Pied avocets make their habitat near water and they can be found in brackish wetlands, coastal lagoons, estuaries, saltpans, lakes, river deltas and flood-plains. They may make use of agricultural areas to forage.

pied avocet

Reproduction

Breeding takes place from March to May across much of their range.

Pied avocets will make their nest on islands. They will nest in a large colony consisting of 10 to 70 pairs which provides protection against predators. These colonies may also include other species.

The pair form a nest which is a shallow scrape and this may be made in bare sand, dried mud, short grass or dead vegetation. Each nest may be as close as 20-30cm (7.9-11.8in) to its neighbor.

During breeding periods the pied avocet will become incredibly protective of its nest and be noisy and aggressive. They have been known to drive away larger species such as shelducks.

These birds lay three or four eggs in each clutch and both the mother and father work together to incubate them for 23 to 25 days.

Chicks can run and feed soon after they hatch. Fledging takes place from 35 to 42 days old.

Sexual maturity is reached between two and three years old.

Behavior

Pied avocets will remain in the same area year round in parts of their range through much of Africa and western Europe. In the rest of their range northern populations tend to migrate south from August to October.

They are often seen in large flocks when foraging and breeding.

pied avocet

Predators and Threats

Humans threaten the pied avocet through pollution of their habitat, development of their wintering sites, land reclamation, human disturbance and decreased flows through the water courses they call home. Outbreaks of avian diseases prove a larger threat.

Quick facts

The name avocet is derived from the black caps of European lawyers who were known as advocates.

Pied avocets have the most upturned bill of any bird in Europe.

Their genus name 'Recurvirostra' comes from a word for 'curved backwards.'

pied avocet
pied avocet

Photo Credits

Chick

By Andreas Trepte – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15262560

All Other Images

By Dr. Raju Kasambe – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74268636

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Taylor, B. and Orr, R., 2021. The bird atlas. 2nd ed. Dorling Kindersley.

Christansen, P.,2019. Birds. 2nd ed. London: Amber Books.

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

BirdLife International. 2019. Recurvirostra avosetta (amended version of 2016 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T22693712A155534228. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T22693712A155534228.en. Downloaded on 02 February 2021.

Zoobarcelona.cat. 2021. Pied avocet. [online] Available at: <https://www.zoobarcelona.cat/en/animals/pied-avocet> [Accessed 3 February 2021].

BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Recurvirostra avosetta. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/02/2021

Oiseaux-birds.com. 2021. Pied Avocet. [online] Available at: <http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-pied-avocet.html> [Accessed 3 February 2021].

CRITTERFACTS. 2021. Pied Avocet | CRITTERFACTS. [online] Available at: <https://critterfacts.com/critterfacts-archive/aviary/piedavocet/> [Accessed 3 February 2021].

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