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Ornithological Studies Presentation
American Avocet

by Adrian Binns 02/03

Family / Genus  Recurvirostridae / Recurvirostra - from the Latin recurvo "to bend backward" and rostrum "bill".
Range Breeds in the west from Canada to Western Texas.  Winters along the Pacific from California to Baja and south to Guatemala and along the Gulf Coast and in Southern Florida. 
In the Delaware Valley A rare to fairly common migrant along the New Jersey and Delaware coast, usually appearing from mid July through early November annually and in most years in small numbers from late march through April.  Occasionally non-breeders (they usually beginning breeding at 2-3 years) will stay through the summer. 
Habitat  Shallow ponds, marshes, prairie ponds, beaches, estuaries and lakeshores with extensive mudflats.  Inland, they favor salty or alkaline lakes over fresh water ponds.
Plumage  Sexes similar in color, with cinnamon/rusty head and neck from March to August and gray from September to February.  Males are slightly larger than females. Juveniles have duller and lighter cinnamon coloration appearing soon after hatching. 
Bill Females bill is more strongly curved / upturned and slightly shorter than the males.  There is no known reason for this, though it may be related to foraging strategies / ecology or some form of sexual selection. 
Behavior Often feeds in large groups, walking slowly, swinging their heads and bills side-to-side, stirring aquatic insects from the shallow water or soft mud with the base of their bills and having their bills partially open to catch prey, finding their food by touch.  The also find food visually picking food off the water surface.  Often seen swimming on the water and will occasionally put their head below the surface and "upend" like a surface feeding duck.  They also can dive under the surface.
Toes Have well webbed toes, one of the few shorebirds (Black-necked Stilt and Phalaropes) that do, which allows them to go into deeper water and swim. 


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