Avocets and Stilts: Recurvirostridae
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Types of Birds
Sleek bills and long legs characterize the two native North American Recurvirostridae species.
First up, the American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana), a fairly large (two feet) shorebird of western salt and fresh water habitats.
Avocet typical habitat choices of inland freshwater breeding areas during the summer and warm coastal areas during winter gives them a wide North American presence.
Their diet consists of the marine organisms, such as insects or mollusks, in their territory. Their adaptability helps maintain fairly stable population levels.
During breeding season the head turns to rust or reddish color, making them a popular shorebird to observe and photograph.
Social birds, they can often be found living and eating in small group settings.
The top picture shows an American Avocet in breeding plumage with the salmon colored feathers on and around the head. In non-breeding the head feathers turn white.
The Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus), a medium sized, long legged shorebird, breeds in fresh and salt water locations along the West Coast, Gulf Coast and South Atlantic Coast.
Their long red legs and black and white bodies make easy to identify in the field.
Like the avocet, they are colony nesters. Both parents participating in care for the young. Both can be fairly loud and defensive when intruders invade their nesting territory.
Like many shorebirds, black-necked stilts feed opportunistically, consuming the insects and aquatic organisms within their territory.
Although the Hawaiian population is considered imperiled, the continental population is considered fairly stable.
Reports of a Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) flying off course and landing in Alaska, on very rare occasions, brings the total North American Recurvirostridae species count to three.
© 2006-2011 Patricia A. Michaels