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Pied avocet
(Recurvirostra avosetta)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Recurvirostridae
Genus: Recurvirostra
Linnaeus, 1758
Type species
Recurvirostra avosetta (pied avocet)
Linnaeus, 1758
  • Recurvirostra avosetta
  • Recurvirostra americana
  • Recurvirostra novaehollandiae
  • Recurvirostra andina

The four species of avocets /ˈævəsɛt/ are a genus, Recurvirostra, of waders in the same avian family as the stilts. The genus name comes from Latin recurvus, 'curved backwards' and rostrum, 'bill'.[1] The common name is thought to derive from the Italian (Ferrarese) word avosetta. Francis Willughby in 1678 noted it as the "Avosetta of the Italians".[2]


Avocets have long legs and long, thin, upcurved bills which they sweep from side to side when feeding in the brackish or saline wetlands they prefer. Their plumage is pied, sometimes also with some red.

Members of this genus have webbed feet and readily swim. Their diet consists of aquatic insects and other small creatures.

Avocets nest on the ground in loose colonies. In estuarine settings, they may feed on exposed bay muds or mudflats. The nest is simply a lining of grass in a hollow in the ground. They lay three or four eggs of a dark greenish or brownish buff color, boldly marked with brown and black.[3]

The pied avocet is the emblem of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.


The genus Recurvirostra was introduced in 1758 by Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae to contain a single species, the pied avocet, Recurvirostra avosetta.[4] The genus name combines the Latin recurvus meaning 'bent' or 'curved backwards' with rostrum meaning 'bill'.[5]


The genus contains four species.[6]

Image Name Common name Distribution
Recurvirostra americana American avocet Central/Western United States, South Florida, Mexico, Saskatchewan, and Alberta
Recurvirostra andina Andean avocet Argentina, western Bolivia, northern Chile, and southern Peru
Recurvirostra avosetta Pied avocet Temperate Europe and Western and Central Asia
Recurvirostra novaehollandiae Red-necked avocet Australia

One fossil species, R. sanctaneboulae Mourer-Chauviré, 1978, dates from the late Eocene of France.

Range and habitat[edit]

In a large colony, they are aggressively defensive and chase off any other species of birds that try to nest among or near them. That causes the annoyed remark "Avocet: Exocet" from some British birdwatchers.[7]

They had been extirpated in Britain for a long time because of land reclamation of their habitat and persecution by skin and egg collectors, but during or soon after World War II, they started breeding on reclaimed land near the Wash, which was returned to salt marsh to make difficulties for any landing German invaders. Avocets use Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve as a summer breeding ground.[8]


  1. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 266. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  2. ^ Swann, H. Kirke (1913). A dictionary of English and folk-names of British Birds. London: Witherby and Co. p. 9.
  3. ^ "THE BIRD BOOK".
  4. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Vol. 1 (10th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 151.
  5. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 331. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  6. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (July 2021). "Buttonquail, thick-knees, sheathbills, plovers, oystercatchers, stilts, painted-snipes, jacanas, Plains-wanderer, seedsnipes". IOC World Bird List Version 11.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  7. ^ BBC TV 1 program The One Show, 7–7:30 p.m. 16 January 2008
  8. ^ "Cottage Hide". Hampshire County Council. Archived from the original on 3 June 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2019.

External links[edit]