Pied avocet

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The pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) belongs to the family of the avocets and the stilts, Recurvirostridae.

The pied avocet species are distributed in the Indian subcontinent, Asia, Africa and Europe. These avocet species have a characteristic slender and strongly upcurved bill. These avocets are monotypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Pied Avocet Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Pied avocet - Overview

  • Scientific name: Recurvirostra avosetta
  • Species author: Linnaeus, 1758
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Recurvirostra Avosetta Linnaeus, 1758
  • Family: Recurvirostridae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Pied avocet, Chinese: 反嘴鹬, French: Avocette élégante, German: Säbelschnäbler, Spanish: Avoceta común, Russian: Шилоклювка, Japanese: ソリハシセイタカシギ, Tamil: Konamookku Ullan
  • Other names: Black-capped Avocet, Eurasian Avocet
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, Asia, Africa, Europe
  • Diet and feeding habits: aquatic insects, molluscs, crustaceans, oligochaete and polychaete worms, small fish, seeds, roots
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Appearance, physical description and identification

The pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is a long-legged wader, measuring 40 to 45 cm in length and weighing 200 to 400 grams. The wingspan is 75 to 80 cm.

The pied avocet species have overall black and white plumage. They have characteristic slender, strongly upcurved bill and black or blackish brown, forehead, crown and nape. The black crown patch covers down to just below eye.

In resting pied avocet black bands can be seen on mantle and upper scapulars and also lesser coverts and median upperwing coverts. The outer six primaries are black.

The pied avocet tail is white with a gray-black tip to the central tail feathers. The tarsus and toes extend well past the tail in flight.

The black bill in pied avocet is slender and strongly upcurved. In breeding female, the bill is shorter and more strongly curved than the male. The irises are brown. The legs are normally bluish gray. Some birds with pink and orange legs have been observed.

In juvenile avocets, the black areas of adults are dull brown or grayish brown. The white parts are heavily mottled with sepia, buff and grayish brown feather fringes. The females have duller black. The Pied avocet call is a repeated melodious "kluit..kluit" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Pied avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta
Birds of India - Image of Pied avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta by Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.net

Birds of India - Photo of Pied avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta
Indian birds - Picture of Pied avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta by Neokortex

Indian birds - Image of Pied avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta
Birds of India - Photo of Pied avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta by pjt56

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The pied avocet species are distributed in the Indian subcontinent, Asia, Africa and Europe. The breeding populations are distributed in parts of Europe, central Asia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, southern Russia and northern China.

The wintering populations of pied avocet are distributed in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, Mediterranean and Red Sea coast of Africa, central Africa and parts of eastern Africa. Resident populations are found in eastern and southern Africa, Middle East and Afghanistan.

In India, these avocet species are distributed in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of the pied avocet species in China are Anqing wetlands, Yueqing Wan, Barkol Lake and grassland, Wenzhou Wan, Ebi Nur and Kuytun River and Desert and wetland from Northern Urumqi to Dabancheng.

Some of the IBA of the pied avocet species in Denmark are Eastern part of Vejlerne, Vadehavet, Ulvedybet, Nibe Bredning, South Læsø, Saltholm, Saltbæk Vig, Roskilde Fjord, Ringkøbing Fjord, Præstø Fjord, Ulvshale, Nyord, Ho Bugt meadows and Islands and coast between Skælskør Fjord and Glænø.

Some of the IBA of the pied avocet species in France are Anse du Fiers d'Ars en Ré, Salins d'Hyères et de Pesquiers, Salines de l'Etang de Berre, Petite Camargue laguno-marine, Marais et forêt d'Olonne, Etangs Montpellierains, Etang de Thau, Camargue and Baie de Vilaine.

The IBA of the pied avocet species in Russia are Ulukhkol' lake, Yeiski salt-lakes, Kiziltash limans, Siverga lake, Lake system near Lotoshnoye village, Kurumbel'skaya steppe and Wetlands of Karasuk town. The IBA of pied avocet in Saudi Arabia is Sabkhat al-Fasl lagoons.

There are several IBA of pied avocet in Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Bulgaria, Greece, United Kingdom Turkey, Sweden, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Mauritania, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

Ecosystem and habitat

These pied avocet species do not normally occur in forests. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 3000 meters.

The natural ecosystems of these pied avocet species include flooded tropical and subtropical grasslands, montane wetlands, river deltas, floodplains, freshwater lakes, coastal lagoons, marine lakes, brackish water lakes, intertidal mudflats, estuaries, marshes and alkaline lakes.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these pied avocet species is mostly aquatic animals. Fish, crustaceans, aquatic insects, molluscs, oligochaete and polychaete worms, seeds and roots are their primary food.

These pied avocet species feed often by 'scything'. The neck is stretched out and the head and the slightly opened bill are swept from side to side through water or soft slushy mud, filtering out small prey. They sometimes swim into deeper waters for feeding.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these pied avocet species varies vastly over their massive range. In general the breeding season in colder ranges is from April to August. In warm tropics and subtropics the breeding season is from June to November.

The nesting sites of pied avocets are located in flat open areas on shallow freshwater, brackish water or saline wetlands, marshes, shallow lake edges, flooded fields, irrigated areas, coastal lagoons, mudflats and swamps.

The pied avocet nest is a bare shallow depression or scrape on sand, dried mud, short grass, dead vegetation or a mound of plant debris. These birds nest in large, close colonies. The typical clutch may contain 3-5 pale buff colored eggs with a few small dark spots.

These avocets are very noisy and highly aggressive during breeding season. They lower their head and neck chase away birds and other animals approaching their nest or entering their breeding territory.

Migration and movement patterns

The pied avocet species are partially migrant birds.

The northern breeding populations of avocets in Europe and central and eastern Asia make long-distance migrations. They migrate southwards to their wintering grounds in Africa and Indian subcontinent between August and October.

They return to the breeding grounds from March to May. They do not breed in the first year and the year-old birds may remain in the wintering range.

The avocet populations in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical ranges are usually sedentary and resident. They breed within the range, dispersing only locally.

Post breeding, the juvenile pied avocets may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is estimated to number 280,000 to 470,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of these avocet species is not known.

Throughout its range the avocet species is reported to be locally common. The generation length is 8.7 years. Its distribution size is about 85,300,000 sq.km.

Hunting and capture for food, sport-hunting, pollution of wetlands with pesticides and harmful chemicals and susceptibility to avian botulism and influenza are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these avocet species.

IUCN and CITES status

The pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the avocet species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Recurvirostra avosetta
Species:R. avosetta
Binomial name:Recurvirostra avosetta
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is closely related to the American avocet (Recurvirostra americana).
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1.Pied_Avocet photo source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pied_Avocet_Recurvirostra_avosetta.jpg (cropped)
Photo author: Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.net | License: CC BY-SA 2.5
2.Photo source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Saebelschnaebler_(Recurvirostra_avosetta).jpg (cropped)
Photo author: Neokortex | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
3.Photo source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Recurvirostra_avosetta-pjt2.jpg (cropped)
Photo author: pjt56 | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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