The American Avocet is one of my all-time favorite birds. Even when I was a kid viewing these birds with my father on a MOU (Minnesota Ornithologists Union) field trip to Western Minnesota, I was in awe with their beauty. My appreciation for this bird was known to the point that Don Wedll, the former DNR Commissioner for the Mille Lacs Band, carved and gave to me a wooden statue of one. It is treasured by me and on display at my home.
I was reunited with this specie while working security at a wildfire base camp north of North Yellowstone Park and south of Livingston Montana. I was on patrol and saw a glittery flight of birds that absolutely got my attention. I parked, looked through a telephone lens, recognized the specie and took lots of images. Wow, what a treat!
When I returned home I worked up the images and was pleasantly surprised at what I took and decided to do a little research on this bird for the Reader. Here goes.
The avocet ranges in most of the western US including east to western Minnesota. It migrates to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Mexico. Its appearance is one of beauty. It is up to 20 inches long and 30 inches high. Having a black and white back, white underbelly and a cinnamon head in summer which turns gray in winter, its long beak upturned at the tip is to me the obvious identifiable field mark. In its strong and direct flight this beak is extended.
Breeding begins in mid-April in the south to mid-May in the north. Usually four eggs which are pale brownish-buff with scattered small spots of black are laid on a “nest” that is a depression on sand or platforms of grass on mud flats. They will often nest in colonies. If water rises parents will add to the nest to elevate the eggs using sticks and weeds and are able to do this quickly. Both parents incubate the eggs over a 22 to 24 day period. The chicks at tended by both parents and are soon after hatching, swimming,  running and feeding themselves. In about six weeks they are independent.
The avocet defends itself by issuing a series of vocal notes that increase in pitch that appear to the predator to be closing in faster that they actually are. This voice is described as “wheep, wheep, wheep.” If need be, they will aggressively attack predators
Insect, invertebrates and crustaceans are the main diet of the avocet. They often sweep their beak from side-to-side while seeking food.
This beautiful bird is protected by the Migratory Bird Act of 1918. Under most conditions the American avocet lives to 10 to 15 years.