American Avocets (Recurvirostra americana)

February 9, 2009 by  
Filed under

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.

Amazing Migration Survival Tactics

June 27, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Ongoing ornithological research continues to confirm what keen bird-watchers have suspected all along – their feathered friends are highly intelligent and adaptive, with an amazing array of communication skills. A new study conducted by researchers at Queen’s University in Washington has revealed that migrating songbirds rely on the behavior of local resident birds to assist them in avoiding predators during migration.

Read more

Alien Predators Outsmarted by Birds

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Recent research reveals that the New Zealand bellbird is able to change its nesting behavior if necessary in order to protect itself from predators. The finding is of massive importance since the introduction of alien predators has been a threat that shore birds have had to face for many years. Often this usually unintentional phenomenon results in the extinction of a number of endemic bird species and some 25 percent of all endangered species continue to be under threat from exotic predators.

Read more

A Brightly Colored and Lively Courtship Display

June 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Found in and around the Amazon basin in the Northern regions of South America, the male Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock never fails to impress. This fascinating bird sports an orange-colored fan-like crest with a chestnut stripe running along the edge, accentuating the flawless semicircular shape. From his crest down to his claws the Guianan Cock-of-the-Rock is wrapped in shades of orange plumage. His wings, which are black with a splash of white, are covered by a layer of fluffy golden-orange feathers, giving him the appearance of being wrapped in a shawl.

Read more

Bird Physiology Affected by Feather Color

June 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

New research conduced by a team from the Arizona State University revealed with startling certainty that the color of a bird has a massive effect on its physiology. During the course of the experiment a number of male barn swallows had their breast feathers artificially colored to match those of more desirable males. The results showed that the change in color didn’t just affect the eligibility of the males in the females eyes, but it actually changed the birds own body chemistry.

Read more

« Previous PageNext Page »