The American Avocet is a large wader in the avocet and stilt family, Recurvirostridae. This avocet has long, thin, gray legs, giving it its colloquial name, blue shanks. The plumage is black and white on the back with white on the underbelly. The neck and head are cinnamon colored in the summer and gray in the winter. The long, thin bill is upturned at the end. The adult bird measures 40 to 51 cm (16 to 20 in) in length.


Habitat and Distribution

This species is migratory, and mostly winters on the southern Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Mexico and the United States.


Feeding

The American Avocet forages in shallow water or on mud flats, often sweeping its bill from side to side in water as it seeks its crustacean and insect prey.


Breeding

The breeding habitat is marshes, beaches, prairie ponds, and shallow lakes where access by predators is difficult in the mid-west and on the Pacific coast of North America. American avocets form breeding colonies numbering dozens of pairs. The female lays four eggs in a saucer-shaped nest, and both sexes take turns incubating them. Upon hatching, the chicks feed themselves; they are never fed by their parents


Calls and Songs

American avocets produce a repeated, high and piercing `kleet-kleet-kleet` alarm call.