Pied Avocet Fact File
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).
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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
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