The American Avocet, A Striking Shorebird

by Larry Jordan on May 24, 2011

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) photos by Larry Jordan

I spent a couple of days last week in Sierra Valley (in Plumas County) where the headwaters of the middle fork of the Feather River originate.  I found these beautiful American Avocets (Recurvirostra americana) in breeding plumage, wading through flooded fields along with Black-necked Stilts and Wilson’s Phalaropes (click on photos for full sized images).

They usually feed in open water that is less than 8 inches deep but will swim in water that is too deep for wading.

American Avocets feed mainly on aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, small fish and seeds, using several feeding methods.

They use visual feeding methods of pecking, plunging and snatching.  This bird was standing still and visually searching for prey and then capturing it with a quick jab of its bill.

They will also plunge their head and upper breast into the water or snatch flying insects in their beaks1.  The more common tactile feeding method is to move that very sensitive, long recurved bill side to side in a scything motion.

Every once in awhile they would pause and look up

…seemingly curious about what I was doing.

Then go back to feeding in the shallows showing the distinctive black and white chevron pattern on their backs.

I really enjoyed watching them feed along with the Stilts and Phalaropes. More photos from birds on this trip coming soon!

If you want to see some great bird photos from around the world you have to check out World Bird Wednesday!

References: 1 Birds of North America Online

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

TexWisGirl May 24, 2011 at 5:28 am

Gorgeous birds! With that wispy curved bill, they can’t help but look graceful!


fjällripan May 24, 2011 at 10:41 pm

Beautiful bird! Great shots!!


dreamfalcon May 25, 2011 at 1:51 am

That’s a beautiful series! I love the picture where it has a water drop in its beak.


Boom & Gary May 25, 2011 at 3:56 am

Great closeups of a fascinating shorebird!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.


Jean May 25, 2011 at 5:27 am

This is a striking shorebird. I enjoyed learning about their eating habits.


Fotokarusellen May 25, 2011 at 6:15 am

A stunning series of images. Beautiful and I say no more.


MaineBirder May 25, 2011 at 7:55 am

WOW Larry, sensational captures of this beautiful bird! Excellent post my friend!


springman May 25, 2011 at 8:04 am

I am ceaselessly amazed how nature has developed such amazing specialised creatures. Thank you for this intimate, informative look!


Andrew May 25, 2011 at 11:41 am

A beautiful bird to see.
Lovely images many thanks for sharing.


Marias Teater May 25, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Fantastic series of shots!


Victoria May 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Oh my… these are absolutely marvelous images… each and every one is a jewel… lovely composition and detail and marvelous information as well. Such a beautiful bird!


Sallie (FullTime-Life) May 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm

This is really the bird that started us birding (we’re still amateurs) but the first time we saw an avocet it was as if we’d seen a creature from another planet — I’d never even imagined or seen a picture of such a beautiful bird. So it is still one of my all-time favorites. Thanks for sharing — your pictures are fabulous!


Bill S. May 26, 2011 at 2:45 am

Great post. It is always fun to watch shorebirds digging and searching for food.


Pat May 26, 2011 at 10:37 am

Nice shots of this lovely shorebird!


Pam May 27, 2011 at 7:59 am

What a gorgeous creature! I’ve never even heard of this bird–love it! Your photos are great!


NatureFootstep May 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm

this is truly a stunning bird. I have only seen the European one. I don´t think it becomes so colorful.


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