The Pied Avocet, also known as the Recurvirostra Avosetta, Black-Capped Avocet, Eurasian Avocet, or simply Avocet, is a large black and white bird that belongs in the Recurvirostridae family. This is a family of wader birds that contains two distinct groups: the stilts and the avocets.
The name avocet came from the Latin word “recurves,” meaning “curved backwards” and rostum, which means “bill.” It has four species: American Avocet, Andean Avocet, Red-Necked Avocet, and Pied Avocet, which is the only avocet species present in the African continent.
This bird species was one of the may birds Carl Linnaeus described in the Systema Naturae in 1758.
The Pied Avocet is not only present in Africa. They also exist in Europe, across the Palearctic to Central Asia, and the Russian Far East. Occasionally, it migrates to Africa or southern Asia. This bird species is considered the emblem of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a charitable organization in England, Wales, and Scotland.
Since their population occurs in a broad range worldwide and there are no present dangers that pose grave threats to their existence, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed this bird species as Least Concern.
Its seven levels of classification are as follows:
Species: R. avosetta
The physical characteristics of a Pied Avocet
This bird species is a bold, unmistakable sight due to its striking pied plumage and conspicuous upcurved black bill.
Both male and female Pied Avocets have similar black and white plumage, but females usually have shorter and more curved bills than males. An adult Pied Avocet has a white body base with black mantle sides and scapulars. Its upper wings’ outer lesser and median coverts are black, just like the outer six primary flight feathers.
Its underparts are primarily white, not including the outer primary flight feathers. The head, crown below the eyes, nape, forehead, and upper hindneck are all black, whereas the foreneck, throat, and cheeks are white in color.
It has dark brown eyes, while its legs and feet are pale blue-grey in color. A Pied Avocet can grow between 16.5 and 17.75 in and weigh between 225 and 395 gr.
Juveniles look like adults, except they have sepia upperparts.
The distribution and habitat of Pied Avocets
This bird species can be sighted in three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe, although the population is mostly saturated in the latter. It breeds in western and central Asia, the Middle East, southeast Russia, northeast China, and the northern, eastern, and southern regions of Africa.
The Pied Avocets breed in flat, shallow brackish or saline regions. They frequent in lagoons, salt-pans, lakes, and estuaries with short vegetation. It also takes refuge in tidal flats, rivers, and freshwaters.
These birds are generally migratory. The strongest migrants reside from central Asia and move to the Persian Gulf, northwest India, and southeast China.
The behavior of Pied Avocets
The courtship displays between male and female Pied Avocets are very evident and active. They perform preening and “bill-dipping,” which takes place when a bird inclines its head forward. In synchronization, both birds raise their bill out of the water and then immerse them on an eye-level.
After these displays, the female will lower its head and keep its bill parallel to the water surface. Behind her, the male will move side to side. After a while, the male stops at the female’s side to perform another display called “dip-shake-preen display.” This display is characterized by the male brushing the female’s tail feathers before mounting the female.
During the breeding season, which primarily occurs from April to August, these birds become aggressive and noisy, driving off larger birds who try to intrude their nest sites. A nest site is a moderately to closely spaced area, which is home to 5 to 100 pairs of Pied Avocets.
The female lays 3-4 eggs. Both parents will incubate the eggs for 23-25 days. Once the eggs are hatched, the chicks will appear silver-grey, with parallel black lines on the back.
The diet of Pied Avocets
These birds feed on aquatic invertebrates like larvae, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, worms, and small fish. It also feeds on plants.
Its hunts by picking or sweeping its bill sideways. Frequently, it forages in watery mud too.
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