AMERICAN AVOCET – (Recurvirostra americana)
The American avocet is a large shorebird with a long, thin and upward-curved black bill and long grey legs. In the summer the adults have a burnt orange head and neck, white under parts, and black and white vertical bars on the back and wings. In the winter, the head is grey and the neck is white. The length is approximately 45 cm (17 in.). The Latin name means ‘upward-curved bill’ and ‘avocet’ refers to ‘avis’, a bird.
This bird sweeps its bill from side to side in shallow water in search of invertebrate prey in its habitat, wetlands and mud flats. When nesting, they are highly protective of their nests, and might even physically attack predatory birds. American avocets practice intra and inter-species brood parasitism. They will also raise young from other species as well, such as terns or stilts.
Just like the Black-necked stilt with which it shares the same family, the American avocet has only been observed ‘accidentally’ on PEI, for example two birds were reported at New London Bay on November 8, 1965. The breeding range of this bird encompasses southern Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada, and the western half of the USA. It winters in southeast USA and Mexico for the most part. The species is not at risk and its population appears stable.