American Avocet
What is it?
Where does it live?
What does it eat?
What eats it?
Why is it important to the G.S.L. food web?
 
 
What is it? 
     The American Avocet or Recurvirostra americana is a long legged shorebird in the family with the stilts.  It is considered a large shorebird at eighteen inches in length.  The Avocet is charecterized by a long, thinbill that curves upward, more so in the female.  It has a distinctive, black and white stripped pattern on its back and sides.  During the breeding season the head and neck are a pinkish-tan.  During the winter they turn more white.  the birds legs and feet are a bluish-gray    On average there are  250,000 shorebirds seen and recorded around the Great Salt Lake each year.  30,000 of these are American Avocets which nest along the eastward beaches 
    

Where does it live? 
    The American Avocet is a migratory bird that lives on mudflats, in saline lakes, freshwater and saltwater marshes from the beaches of the florida coast to as far south as Mexico and Guatamala during the winter months.  During the summer months they may be found as far north as canada.  They are protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty.  The Avocet is found at the Great Salt Lake from mid-March through  there breeding season, April to June.  Some individuals have been recorded as late as December.  The greatest number of Avocets has been recorded during July by the Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. During this month as many as 30,000 avocets were seen and recorded, most of which were living and breeding along Ogden Bay and a few miles north at Harold Crane and south in Layton Marsh.  A mating pair will live on the beaches making impressions in the sand for nests, and incubate three to four eggs for 22- 24 days. Soon after hatching the young can swim and feed themselves. The parents take an active role in raising their young and can be very aggresive toward intruders.  
 
 

What does it eat?  
     The American Avocet in general will eat seeds, aquatic insects and small crustaceans. They feed by sticking sometimes their whole head under water and swishing it from side to side stirring up bugs and crustaceans with their long curved bill. The abundance of brine shrimp, an aquatic crustacean, in the Great Salt Lake is the main reason these birds stop off on our beaches. Their is an overabundance of food for themselves to carry on a long migration, as well as plenty of food to raise their young. There is no other habitat of its nature and size for several hundred miles, like that of the Great Salt Lake(G.S.L. waterbird survey).  
 

What eats it?  
The Am. Avocet is prey to few egg robbers, like the skunk and fox. Man at one time was also a slight threat killing the avocet as a game bird, but now that it’s protected by the Migratory Bird Act there are few predators of this beautiful shorebird. The only real threat is the loss of breeding and wintering grounds due to habitat degredation and destruction. 
 

Why is the American Avocet important to the G.S.L. food web? 
     The American Avocet is important because they help keep the population of brine shrimp down by eating numerous amounts during the breeding season. They are also important because few animals like the skunk and fox prey on the eggs of the Am. Avocet.  When nest building they may build their nest up with sticks or feathers if the water rises, therefor they help to utilize the waste product of plants and birds.  
 
 

References 
     Paul, Don S., Ann and, Elizabeth M., Folry, Joel Great Salt Lake Waterbird Survey 1997 and 1998 season. Salt Lake City, Utah Feb. 1999.  

     Paton, Peter W.C.,Kneedy, Craig, Sorensen, Ella “Chronology of shorebird and Ibis Use of Selected Marshes at Great Salt Lake.” Utah Birds Vol. 8 #1 March 1992 pg.6-13  
     Fellows, Suzanne, Edwards Jr.,Thomas C., and The Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. “Temporal and Spatial Distribution of Shorebirds on the Great Salt Lake.”Progress report contract no. 90-2079. Utah State University Logan, Utah Jan. 1991  

http://www.mesc.usgs.gov/shorbirds/maps/range/range-tables/ amav.htm 
http:/www.globalairphotos.com/globalbirdphotos/posters08/0804samericanavocet1.htm http://www.doub.photo.net/photo_cd/a/b91.html  
Nature Texas parks and wildlife. wildlife fact sheet.  
 

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