American Avocets

By Dan Weisz

When I visited the Gilbert Water Ranch recently, the ponds were full of American Avocets. American Avocets are elegant birds in their looks and their behaviors. Their colors, body shape, and long upturned beak are striking and their blue legs add a nice touch.

Avocets are found in the shallow waters of wetlands throughout the West at some point during the year. We are seeing them now during their breeding period. As all birds do, they spend considerable time daily preening to clean and put all of their feathers in place.

Courtship displays are interesting. The female lowers her head in what is called the Solicitation Posture and she remains still while the male begins to circle her body.

The male will dip his beak in water and preen close to the female Avocet while continuing to circle her. It’s like he’s checking her out while saying “Check me out”.

Continual preening, dipping his beak into water and circling her.

I watched him move around her over and over again. He never crossed in front of her and she never budged. You might notice that the male’s beak is slightly longer than the female’s.

I was hoping to see mating, but that never happened. I guess the timing wasn’t right. After a few minutes, the male just walked off and the female headed in the opp

American Avocets will forage in shallow water by sweeping their bill side-to-side at the water’s surface, a behavior called scything. This is one of the methods they use to capture food.

My next photo email will feature some Great Horned Owls. I finally found a nest this spring and the youngsters are growing up fast.

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