Pied Avocet

Recurvirostra avosetta

The Pied Avocet is an easily observed and unmistakable species of bird, frequenting shallow waterbodies, salt pans and temporary waterholes where it sweeps the water with its upcurved bill in search of aquatic invertebrates – brine shrimps are a particular favourite, explaining the Pied Avocet’s preference for highly mineralised water. They’re very nomadic, moving around without any apparent pattern in response to rainfall and the newly created waterbodies that follows in its wake. Some populations are also migratory, though there’s no evidence that that is true of birds found in South Africa. Pied Avocets are usually seen in small flocks.

Pied Avocets breed at any time of year, with peaks just before and just after the rainy season. They form monogamous pairs that “build” a very simple nest – usually just a scrape or hoofprint in the ground that gets lined with soft materials. Clutches of 1-4 eggs are incubated by both parents taking turns for between 3 and 4 weeks. The chicks follow their parents to water soon after they hatch and although they can fly by the time they’re 4 weeks old will stay with their parents for quite some time after. Fully grown they’re about 45cm long and weigh about 350g.

The Pied Avocet is a familiar bird over an enormous swathe of Asia, Europe and Africa and they can be found in all South Africa’s provinces, though their highest concentrations are in a band stretching from Gauteng through the Free State to the Western and Eastern Cape coast. The IUCN estimates their total global numbers at between 280,000 and 470,000 and considers the species to be of least concern.


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