Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez
Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the American avocet.
In the shallows along the shores of our local ponds and lakes, you might see a long-legged, stately looking, medium-sized shorebird — the American avocet — known by its scientific name recurvirostra Americana. Distinguished by black stripes on its outermost wing feathers and middle of its back; its white underparts; rust-colored breast, head and
neck during breeding season; and bluish legs, the American avocet is often noted for its elegant appearance. Found singly or in small flocks of 10 to 20 birds, the American avocet feeds by moving its slightly upward, curved bill back and forth in the softened mud of its preferred habitat. This allows it to collect small invertebrates and seeds buried in the mud, but they may feed on small fish as well.
Most distribution maps show their nearest breeding grounds to our east in the San Luis Valley. If you were to come upon their nest, it would be very nondescript, just a shallow depression in the soil lined with some pebbles and feathers. Their offspring are precocial, meaning that within a few minutes of hatching, they are able to scurry about to avoid predation. After experiencing a decline in population numbers during the 1960s and 1970s, currently the American avocet is doing reasonably well. However, a decline in wetlands across North America represents a challenge for this beautiful member of our bird community.