Marine Wildlife Encyclopedia
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Instantly recognizable by their long upturned bills, avocets are elegant waders that feed in shallow water, both on coasts and inland. There are four species, all similar in shape and size. Of these, the pied avocet is by far the most widespread and is the only species that is found in Europe and Africa, as well as Asia. Pied avocets feed by dipping their bill in water, and then sweeping it from side to side. The tip of the bill is highly sensitive to touch, so the bird can catch food even in the turbid water of estuaries and lagoons. Pied avocets swim well and sometimes upend to find food in the same way as dabbling ducks. They nest in groups, making cup-shaped hollows on mudflats, where they lay a clutch of four eggs. Despite their dainty appearance, they can be aggressive if their nests are threatened. Parents charge at intruders with their heads lowered, and they are able to chase away much bulkier birds, such as geese and ducks.