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Order Waders, Gulls, Skuas/Charadriiformes, Family Stilts, Avocets/Recurvirostridae

Pied Avocet/Recurvirostra avosetta - Male + Female

L 42-46 cm (incl. bill c. 8; excl. leg projection c. 10), WS 67-77 cm. Breeds on flat, open seashores or shallow lagoons with brackish or salt water, with bare margins and sandy shoals; in winter, also frequents estuaries, mudflats. Migratory in N and E, wintering in Mediterranean and Africa. In Britain & Ireland, uncommon away from well-known breeding colonies and wintering sites in E and S England. Food mainly insects and small crustaceans, typically obtained by distinctive feeding action in which slightly opened bill-tip is swept from side to side through water or soft mud, detecting prey by touch. Also feeds by pecking at surface of mud; occasionally swims, upending to feed like a duck. Nest is sparsely or fully lined scrape on bare ground near water, occasionally more substantial collection of vegetation forming raised mound in shallow water. Wary, giving full alarm in flight when disturbed during breeding.
IDENTIFICATION: In quick or distant view, can be overlooked as a gull because of general white appearance. Otherwise unmistakable pattern of black and white, slender upcurved black bill and long pale blue legs. In flight, pied pattern distinctive, though at long range can be taken for a Goosander or Shelduck. - Adult: male told by longer bill which appears less sharply curved, and head markings always black and neat; female has shorter, sharply curved bill, and head markings are sometimes less clear-cut and tinged brownish. - Juvenile: Markings dull brownish, not black; white areas sullied brownish or barred; legs dull grey. - 1st-year: Distinguishable from adult so long as juvenile features retained; primaries much faded and brownish by 1st summer.
VOICE: Common call is loud, piping ‘klüp klüp klüp …’ with characteristic ring; used also for alarm.

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