Recurvirostra americana - Gmelin, 1789
American Avocet
Other English Common Names: American avocet
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Recurvirostra americana J. F. Gmelin, 1789 (TSN 176721)
French Common Names: avocette d'Amérique
Spanish Common Names: Avoceta Americana
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.100007
Element Code: ABNND02010
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Birds - Shorebirds
Image 7518

© Larry Master

 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Aves Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae Recurvirostra
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online: http://www.aou.org/.
Concept Reference Code: B98AOU01NAUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Recurvirostra americana
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: G5
Global Status Last Reviewed: 09Apr2016
Global Status Last Changed: 25Nov1996
Ranking Methodology Used: Ranked by inspection
Rounded Global Status: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Globally secure. Significant regional declines have not been reported.
Nation: United States
National Status: N5B,N5N (19Mar1997)
Nation: Canada
National Status: N5B,N5M (26Jan2018)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Alabama (S3N), Arizona (S2), Arkansas (S3N), California (SNRB,SNRN), Colorado (S4B,S4N), Delaware (SNA), Florida (S2), Georgia (S3), Idaho (S3B,S3M), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SXB), Iowa (S3B,S3N), Kansas (S2B,S3N), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (S5N), Maryland (SNA), Michigan (SNRN), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (S4B), Navajo Nation (S2B,S5N), Nebraska (S4), Nevada (S4B), New Mexico (S4B,S4N), North Carolina (S1N), North Dakota (SNRB), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (S2B), Oregon (S4), South Carolina (SNRN), South Dakota (S4B), Tennessee (S3N), Texas (S4B,S5N), Utah (S3B), Virginia (SNA), Washington (S4B), Wyoming (S3B)
Canada Alberta (S5B), British Columbia (S2S3B), Manitoba (S4B), Newfoundland Island (SNA), Northwest Territories (SUB), Ontario (SNA), Saskatchewan (S5B,S5M)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: >2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: BREEDING: Northwest Territories (Kuyt and Johns 1992), southeastern British Columbia, central Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, southwestern Manitoba, southwestern Ontario, and Minnesota south locally to southern California, central Nevada, northern Utah, south-central Colorado, southern New Mexico, and San Luis Potosi, east to central Kansas and coastal Texas. Nonbreeders often in usual winter range in summer. NON-BREEDING: from California and southern Texas south through Mexico, casually to Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica, locally in southern Florida.

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total population estimated at 450,000, with about 63,000 breeding in Canada (Morrison et al. 2001).

Short-term Trend Comments: Morrison (1993/1994) categorized the population trend in Canada as "stable?"

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: Northwest Territories (Kuyt and Johns 1992), southeastern British Columbia, central Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, southwestern Manitoba, southwestern Ontario, and Minnesota south locally to southern California, central Nevada, northern Utah, south-central Colorado, southern New Mexico, and San Luis Potosi, east to central Kansas and coastal Texas. Nonbreeders often in usual winter range in summer. NON-BREEDING: from California and southern Texas south through Mexico, casually to Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica, locally in southern Florida.

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, INextirpated, KS, KY, LA, MD, MI, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NM, NN, NV, OH, OK, OR, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WY
Canada AB, BC, MB, NF, NT, ON, SK

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at www.natureserve.org/conservation-tools/data-maps-tools.

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002; WILDSPACETM 2002


U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
AZ Apache (04001), Cochise (04003)
FL Wakulla (12129)
ID Ada (16001), Bear Lake (16007), Bingham (16011), Blaine (16013), Bonner (16017), Camas (16025), Canyon (16027), Cassia (16031), Custer (16037), Fremont (16043), Jefferson (16051), Lemhi (16059), Nez Perce (16069), Power (16077), Valley (16085)
KS Barton (20009), Edwards (20047), Grant (20067), Gray (20069), Greeley (20071), Haskell (20081), Meade (20119), Morton (20129), Pratt (20151), Reno (20155), Seward (20175), Stafford (20185), Stanton (20187), Stevens (20189), Thomas (20193)
NE Chase (31029), Custer (31041), Dundy (31057), Garden (31069), Grant (31075), Keith (31101), Lincoln (31111), Platte (31141), Sheridan (31161)
NM San Juan (35045), Sierra (35051)
OK Beaver (40007), Texas (40139), Tillman (40141)
UT Beaver (49001)*, Box Elder (49003), Daggett (49009)*, Davis (49011), Iron (49021), Juab (49023), Kane (49025)*, Millard (49027), Salt Lake (49035), Sevier (49041)*, Tooele (49045), Utah (49049)*, Washington (49053), Wayne (49055)*, Weber (49057)
WY Albany (56001), Big Horn (56003), Campbell (56005), Carbon (56007), Converse (56009), Crook (56011), Fremont (56013), Goshen (56015), Johnson (56019), Laramie (56021), Lincoln (56023), Natrona (56025), Park (56029), Platte (56031), Sublette (56035), Sweetwater (56037), Teton (56039), Uinta (56041), Washakie (56043)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
03 Apalachee Bay-St. Marks (03120001)+
10 Clarks Fork Yellowstone (10070006)+, Upper Wind (10080001)+, Little Wind (10080002)+, Popo Agie (10080003)+, Lower Wind (10080005)+, Upper Bighorn (10080007)+, Nowood (10080008)+, Greybull (10080009)+, Big Horn Lake (10080010)+, Dry (10080011)+, North Fork Shoshone (10080012)+, Shoshone (10080014)+, South Fork Powder (10090203)+, Salt (10090204)+, Clear (10090206)+, Middle Powder (10090207)+, Little Powder (10090208)+, Antelope (10120101)+, Dry Fork Cheyenne (10120102)+, Upper Cheyenne (10120103)+, Upper Belle Fourche (10120201)+, Upper Niobrara (10150003)+, Upper North Platte (10180002)+, Pathfinder-Seminoe Reservoirs (10180003)+, Medicine Bow (10180004)+, Little Medicine Bow (10180005)+, Sweetwater (10180006)+, Middle North Platte-Casper (10180007)+, Middle North Platte-Scotts Bluff (10180009)+, Upper Laramie (10180010)+, Lower Laramie (10180011)+, Horse (10180012)+, Lower North Platte (10180014)+, Upper Lodgepole (10190015)+, Lower Platte-Shell (10200201)+, Upper Middle Loup (10210001)+, South Loup (10210004)+, North Fork Republican (10250002)+, Frenchman (10250005)+, Prairie Dog (10250015)+, Ladder (10260004)+
11 Coon-Pickerel (11030004)+, Rattlesnake (11030009)+, Gar-Peace (11030010)+, Cow (11030011)+, Little Arkansas (11030012)+, South Fork Ninnescah (11030015)+, Upper Cimarron (11040002)+, Sand Arroyo (11040004)+, Bear (11040005)+, Upper Cimarron-Liberal (11040006)+, Crooked (11040007)+, Upper Cimarron-Bluff (11040008)+, Middle Beaver (11100102)+, Blue-China (11130102)+, West Cache (11130203)+
13 Tularosa Valley (13050003)+
14 Upper Green (14040101)+, Upper Green-Slate (14040103)+, Big Sandy (14040104)+, Bitter (14040105)+, Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir (14040106)+, Blacks Fork (14040107)+, Muddy (14040108)+, Vermilion (14040109)+, Great Divide closed basin (14040200)+, Muddy (14050004)+, Fremont (14070003)+*, Chaco (14080106)+, Chinle (14080204)+
15 Kanab (15010003)+*, Upper Virgin (15010008)+, Lower Puerco (15020007)+, Willcox Playa (15050201)+
16 Upper Bear (16010101)+, Central Bear (16010102)+, Bear Lake (16010201)+, Lower Bear-Malad (16010204)+, Lower Weber (16020102)+, Utah Lake (16020201)+*, Jordan (16020204)+, Rush-Tooele Valleys (16020304)+, Southern Great Salt Lake Desert (16020306)+, Great Salt Lake (16020310)+, Middle Sevier (16030003)+*, Lower Sevier (16030005)+, Escalante Desert (16030006)+, Beaver Bottoms-Upper Beaver (16030007)+*, Lower Beaver (16030008)+*
17 Pend Oreille Lake (17010214)+, Snake headwaters (17040101)+, Idaho Falls (17040201)+, Upper Henrys (17040202)+, American Falls (17040206)+, Lake Walcott (17040209)+, Raft (17040210)+, Beaver-Camas (17040214)+, Birch (17040216)+, Little Lost (17040217)+, Camas (17040220)+, Little Wood (17040221)+, Lower Boise (17050114)+, Middle Snake-Payette (17050115)+, South Fork Payette (17050120)+, Upper Salmon (17060201)+, Clearwater (17060306)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
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General Description: A large slender shorebird with a long, slender, recurved bill (longer and straighter in males than in females), long spindly legs, and a long neck; wings and back are boldly patterned with black and white; belly and flanks are white; head and neck and rusty in breeding plumage, gray in basic plumage; juveniles have a cinnamon wash on the head and neck; average length 46 cm (NGS 1983).
Diagnostic Characteristics: No other North American shorebird with a recurved bill has both a white belly and bold black and white patterning on the folded wings and back.
Reproduction Comments: Breeding begins in mid-April in the south, as late as mid-May in the north. Clutch size usually is 3-4. Incubation lasts 23-25 days, by both sexes. Young are precocial, tended by both adults, independent in about 6 weeks. Nests usually in a loose colony.
Non-Migrant: Y
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: Y
Mobility and Migration Comments: May be nonmigratory in certain southern portions of range. Northern interior breeding populations make extensive seasonal migrations. Migrates mainly through western U.S. At Humboldt Bay California, arrives late-August to mid-November, departs February to late April and early May (Evans and Harris 1994).
Estuarine Habitat(s): Bay/sound, Herbaceous wetland, Lagoon, River mouth/tidal river, Tidal flat/shore
Riverine Habitat(s): Low gradient
Lacustrine Habitat(s): Shallow water
Palustrine Habitat(s): HERBACEOUS WETLAND, Riparian
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Playa/salt flat
Habitat Comments: Lowland marshes, mudflats, ponds, alkaline lakes, and estuaries (AOU 1983). At Humboldt Bay, California, wintering birds used intertidal mud flats (mainly for for feeding and resting), a sewage oxidation pond (mainly for feeding and secondarily as a source of fresh water), high elevation mud flats (early high tide roost), and islands in a brackish lake (primary high tide roost); typically roosted on shallow, submerged bars of islands in deep nontidal ponds or less often in shallow water or on exposed mud near the water's edge of tidal mud flats (Evans and Harris 1994). Availability of sewage oxidation pond at Humboldt Bay enhanced habitat; the wintering population increased from 30-35 in 1960 (before pond construction) to 500-800 in the 1980s (after pond construction) (Evans and Harris 1994). In coastal South Carolina, most nonbreeding birds used habitats with water 10-17 cm deep (and relatively stable level) and little or no exposed substrate; among several brackish ponds, salinity was not an important factor in habitat selection (Boettcher et al. 1995).

Usually nests on open flats or areas with scattered tufts of grass on islands or along lakes (especially alkaline) and marshes. Readily nests on artificial islands (such as those created for waterfowl) in impoundments (Giroux 1985).

In Northwest Territories, Kuyt and Johns (1992) found two instances of avocet eggs in gull nests.

Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Walks slowly through the water; often feeding in flocks that number 12-300 birds. Eats a variety of aquatic insects and their larvae, crustaceans, and seeds of aquatic plants, obtained mainly from soft muddy bottom or water surface. May extend head, or dive, under surface of water while feeding. During fall-winter-spring at Humboldt Bay, California, foraged on intertidal mud flats within 3 km of roosts, usually within 100 m of tide edge, most often when tide levels were between 0.5 and 1.2 m Mean Lower Low Water; in October, fed mainly at sewage oxidation ponds with concentrations of invertebrate prey (Evans and Harris 1994).
Adult Phenology: Diurnal
Immature Phenology: Diurnal
Colonial Breeder: Y
Length: 46 centimeters
Weight: 316 grams
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary
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Management Requirements: Readily nests on artificial islands (such as those created for waterfowl) in impoundments (Giroux 1985).
Population/Occurrence Delineation
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Group Name: Shorebirds

Use Class: Breeding
Subtype(s): Feeding Area, Breeding Site
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of historical breeding, or current and likely recurring breeding, at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of one or more breeding pairs in appropriate habitat. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single breeding events outside the normal breeding distribution.
Mapping Guidance: Breeding occurrences include nesting areas as well as foraging areas of nesting adults and broods. Because separations are based on nesting areas, the foraging areas of different occurrences may overlap if nesting birds are traveling to distant places to feed.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance pertains specifically to nesting areas, not to locations of dispersed foraging individuals. For example, nesting areas separated by a gap of more than 5 km are different occurrences, regardless of the foraging locations of individuals from those nesting areas.

The separation distance is an arbitrary value; it is impractical to attempt to delineate shorebird occurrences on the basis of dispersal patterns or metapopulation dynamics. Foraging ranges of some nesting shorebird species (see following) may suggest use of a larger separation distance, but this likely would result in occurrences that are too large and less effective for conservation planning.

Separation distance based on larger 'typical' breeding home ranges with diameters of 1.5 to 3 kilometers. Semipalmated Plovers have breeding home ranges up to 3 square kilometers, i.e. a diameter of just under 2 kilometers (Nol and Blanken 1999). Red-necked Phalaropes have a core home range of 1-3 hectares, but occasionally travel 1.5 kilometers to feed (Rubega et al. 2000). Stilt Sandpipers can forage up to 8 kilometers from nest (Jehl 1973). Mountain Plovers have an average home range of 56.6 hectares (Knopf 1996) but broods typically move 1-2 kilometers shortly after hatching (Knopf and Rupert 1996).

Territories: Common Snipe, 6.4-28.6 hectares (Mueller 1999); Long-billed Dowitcher, 100-300 meter diameter (Johnsgard 1981); golden-plovers, average 10-59 hectares (Johnson and Connors 1996); Long-billed Curlew, 6-20 hectares (Johnsgard 1981).

Nesting densities: Black-bellied Plover, 0.3-2.3 pairs per square kilometer (44 ha per pair at latter density; Hussell and Page 1976, Parmelee et al. 1967); Marbled Godwit, maximum density 1 pair/32 hectares (Stewart and Kantrud 1972).

Foraging distances: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, up to 13 kilometers from nest (Elphick and Tibbits 1998, Tibbits and Moskoff 1999).

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): 1.5 km
Inferred Minimum Extent Justification: Based on a smaller 'typical' home ranges (see Separation Justification).
Date: 25Mar2004
Author: Hammerson, G., and S. Cannings

Use Class: Migratory stopover
Subtype(s): Roost, Foraging concentration area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of migrating flocks (including historical); and potential recurring presence at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat (minimum can be reduced in the case of rarer species). Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 7 days annually. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary; set at 5 kilometers to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of foraging or roosting birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.
Date: 15Apr2002
Author: Cannings, S.

Use Class: Nonbreeding
Subtype(s): Roost, Winter Feeding Area
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Evidence of recurring presence of wintering flocks (including historical); and potential recurring presence at a given location, minimally a reliable observation of 25 birds in appropriate habitat. Occurrences should be locations where the species is resident for some time during the appropriate season; it is preferable to have observations documenting presence over at least 20 days annually. Be cautious about creating EOs for observations that may represent single events.
Separation Barriers: None.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Separation distance somewhat arbitrary; set at 5 kilometers to define occurrences of managable size for conservation purposes. Occurrences defined primarily on the basis of areas supporting concentrations of foraging or roosting birds, rather than on the basis of distinct populations.
Date: 25Mar2004
Author: S. Cannings
Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
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Authors/Contributors
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Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 01Apr1996
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): HAMMERSON, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
Help
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  • Raffaele, H., J. Wiley, O. Garrido, A. Keith, and J. Raffaele. 1998. A guide to the birds of the West Indies. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ. 511 pp.

  • Recurvirostra americana/American Avocet. 2005. Copyright Andy Teucher.

  • Resource Inventory Committee. 1997d. Standardized Inventory Methodologies for Components of British Columbia's Biodiversity: Colonial Freshwater Nesters, version 1.1. Prepared for the Resour. Inventory Comm., B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC.

  • Ridgely, R. S. 2002. Distribution maps of South American birds. Unpublished.

  • Ridgely, R. S. and J. A. Gwynne, Jr. 1989. A Guide to the Birds of Panama. 2nd edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton, USA.

  • Robinson, J.A., L.W. Oring, J.P. Skorupa, and R. Boettcher. 1997. American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana). in A. Poole and F. Gill, eds. The Birds of North America, No. 275. Acad. Nat. Sci., Philadelphia, PA, and Am. Ornithol. Union, Washington, DC. 32pp.

  • Robinson, Julie A. 1997. American Avocet; The Birds of North America. Vol. 7, No. 275. American Orinithologists' Union. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

  • Rubega, M. A., D. Schamel, and D. M. Tracy. 2000. Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus). No. 538 IN A. Poole and F. Gill, editors, The birds of North America. The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA. 28pp.

  • See SERO listing

  • Semenchuk, G.P. 1992. The atlas of breeding birds of Alberta. Federation of Alberta Naturalists. 391 pp.

  • Sibley, D. A. 2000a. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

  • Smith, A. 1996. Atlas of Saskatchewan birds. Saskatchewan Natural History Society, Special Publication No. 22. 456 pp.

  • Stiles, F. G. and A. F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, USA. 511 pp.

  • Terres, J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

  • Weir, F. 1999. The breeding biology of an American Avocet colony. British Columbia Birds 7(1997):3-7.

  • Weir, J. 1997. Great birding at Avocet Marsh. BC Birding 7(3):16-18.

  • Zook, J. L. 2002. Distribution maps of the birds of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Unpublished.

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