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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

American Avocet -- Recurvirostra americana


RANGE: Breeds from southeastern British Columbia and central Alberta to Minnesota, south locally to southern California, northern Utah, and southern New Mexico, and east to central Kansas and coastal Texas. Winters mostly in coastal lowlands from northern California and southern Texas south to Mexico, and locally in southern Florida.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits the borders of muddy saline, alkaline, and freshwater ponds, lakes, and marshes, particularly favoring shallow alkaline lakes, wet meadows and pastures with scattered open pools. Commonly associates with black-necked stilts, godwits, and lesser yellowlegs.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wetlands bordered by open flats or areas with scattered tufts of grass.

NEST: Eggs are laid in a scrape on the ground. Nests in colonies on dry, sun-baked mudflats, near water, on low, gravelly or sandy islands with scant vegetation, or in marshes bordering shallow lakes. If the water level rises to flood the nest, adds vegetation to raise the nest above the level of water.

FOOD: Gathers food by stirring up water for seeds, aquatic insects, and small crustaceans, and by probing in soft mud. Consumes dragonfly nymphs, back swimmers, water boatmen, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, weevils, flies and their larvae, centipedes, small snails, small crustaceans, small fishes, and seeds of marsh and aquatic plants.

REFERENCES: Bent 1927, Gibson 1971, Harrison 1979, Low and Mansell 1983, Palmer 1967, Terres 1980, Wilds in Farrand 1983a.


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