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American avocet

American avocet (Recurvirostra americana)
Photo © David W. Brewer

Features and Behaviors

The long, upturned, thin bill of this slender shorebird is a characteristic feature. The back and wing feathers display a black-and-white pattern. In the breeding season, the head and neck feathers are pink-tan to orange. In nonbreeding times those feathers are gray. The American avocet is about 18 inches long.

American avocets start moving through Illinois in April for spring migration. Southward migrants can be seen as early as June, but the bulk of fall migration occurs from late July to early September. They are seen more often in fall than in spring in Illinois. This species breeds mainly in western North America and overwinters from the southern United States through Central America. Avocets visit mudflats, sandbars, lakeshores and grassy pools in search of the invertebrates that comprise their diet.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Recurvirostridae

Illinois Status: common, native