American Avocets (breeding plumage)
Family: (Recurvirostridae) Stilts and Avocets
Preferred Habitat: Shallow marshes and lakes
Seasonal Occurrence: Common December through May. Uncommon to occasional other seasons.
Profile by Glenn Olsen: The American Avocet is a slender, moderately large, strikingly handsome shorebird that we can enjoy seeing in our area most months of the year. In winter plumage the head and neck are mostly off-white to grayish; the underparts are white; the wings and back have a pattern of broad black and white stripes when standing and more of a chevron pattern in flight. In breeding plumage the head and neck of males is a beautiful cinnamon color with the remainder of the plumage being very close to the winter plumage pattern. Long bluish-gray legs and a long recurved bill further distinguish the American Avocet.
We often see this bird feeding in the water with head down, bill in the water and sweeping the head and bill from side to side (scything). The extremely sensitive bill detects and catches aquatic invertebrates as the Avocet walks and sweeps. The number of birds present on the upper coast may vary as this species migrates through our area to either wintering or breeding grounds. Generally this species breeds in the central and western U.S. and southern Canada around or near seasonal wetlands, potholes of the prairie, inland lakes, salt ponds, the Great Salt Lake, and man made impoundments. The common winter range includes California, Texas, Florida, Baja, Mexico and parts of Central America.
The American Avocet can generally be found at Bolivar Flats Sanctuary, in and around the bays of Galveston, Surfside, and other similar habitat along the coast of Texas. Sometimes one may see these beautiful birds in a small group with only a few birds, other times one will find a large group of birds, but when you find a flock of several hundred and upwards feeding, resting and preening it is a stunning, awesome sight and experience!