American Avocets (Recurvirostra americana)

February 9, 2009 by  
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American Avocets (Recurvirostra americana) are beautiful, elegant birds which are found in water-filled areas such as marshes, coastal bays, mudflats and saline lakes. During the summer months the American Avocet makes its way to the western Great Plains of America and are dotted through Saskatchewan, Alberta, Montana, North and South Dakota, New Mexico and Texas. In the winter months they migrate to California and Mexico as well as along the coast that runs from North Carolina to Texas. American Avocet’s are listed with the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act as being a threatened species due to habitat destruction.

The American Avocet is a shorebird with a distinctive long, upward curving black bill. Its long legs are grey-blue in color and thus it has received the nickname “blue shanks”. Its back and sides are clearly marked with white and black stripes. It measures about 43-47 cm, with a wingspan of 72 cm. Its eyes are dark brown. When it is breeding season, the head and neck turn a pink-tan color, but are usually gray-white. Female American Avocets are a bit smaller than the males and the bill is more curved and shorter. When bird watching along the shoreline, listen out for the call of the avocet, a high-pitched “kleek” sound.

American Avocets feed on aquatic invertebrates found in their habitat. They will forage in shallow water, whilst wading or swimming. The avocet will swing its unusual bill along the ground under the water so as to disturb the aquatic prey, grabbing it for a tasty meal.

American Avocets engage in complex courtship displays when breeding season arrives. This display involves the male avocet preening himself with water. The intensity increases into a massive splashing and then he mounts the female to mate. Following copulation the avocet pair run along with their necks intertwined. American Avocet nests are simply a scrape in the ground that is carefully lined with vegetation, feathers and so forth. Between 3 and 4 little green-brown eggs with dark spots are laid in the nest. Whilst in the nesting phase the avocets become very aggressive, even attacking intruders. They will use a number of methods, such as dive-bombing, to distract predators from the nest. Incubation lasts 22 – 24 days and is carried out by both the male and female. The young hatchlings are able to fend for themselves immediately after making their way out into the world.

American Avocets had a major drop in numbers during the 1960s and 70s due to wetland destruction and contamination. In 1995 special provision was made to protect the wetland habitats of California. The avocets are battling to get their numbers up, but it is hoped that they will flourish in the future.

Little Stint (Calidris minuta)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Little Stint (Calidris minuta) is located throughout Europe and Africa, and is generally found in areas that have water sources. It prefers mudflats, beaches, estuaries, island tundra and coastal tundra. This 13 to 18 centimeter little wader bird is part of the Sandpiper family and is a rusty brown color over its breast, face and neck, with spots of black. Its back and wings are scale-brown and it has a white belly. The back also has an extremely distinctive white “V” when the bird is in flight. Both sexes look similar and in winter the adult Stint changes in color to gray-brown streaks and dull brown wings and upper body parts. The Stint has black eyes and a dagger-like bill. This little bird only weighs a mere 23 grams and has a wingspan of about 28 to 30 centimeters. Flight is very swift, with extremely rapid wing beats.

There is sometimes a little confusion when identifying the Little Stints amongst the other wader birds. It is therefore important to take extra care in noticing the plumage pattern on the wings, coloring and being aware of the little hind toe that is visible on the Little Stints’ feet. Birds such as Sanderlings are generally paler in color and larger in size, while Timmincks’ Stints have yellow-green coloring on their legs. This wader bird feeds mostly on insects but will also feed on mollusks and crustaceans. Being a migratory bird, the Little Stint will migrate to Asia and Africa during the cold, winter months.

During the bird breeding season, nests will be constructed from a ground scraping, and is lined with dwarf birch leaves and willow. The female Stint will lay between three to five eggs, which are either olive green or yellow in color and have red-brown spots on the shell. Both the male and female will be active in the 21 to 23 day incubation period. It is not unusual for the Little Stint to incubate two nests at the same time. After the chicks have hatched, it takes approximately fifteen to eighteen days for the young chicks to learn to fly, and fledge the nest.

Birding In Holland

October 22, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

If you’re planning a trip to Holland for business or pleasure, you may want to consider doing a spot of bird-watching in your spare time. This stunning country is home to a number of great bird-watching sites and there are usually more than a few avid birding enthusiasts in the area who will be more than willing to accompany you and provide you with helpful information and a trained eye.

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