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Friday, 13 March 2015

199. Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

Pied Avocets, or just plain Avocets as they are known to us here in the UK, are an immediately recognisable bird and are familiar to many as the symbol of the RSPB. They are a conservation success story here - they went extinct in 1840, but recolonised in the 1940s and numbers have been increasing ever since. They like saline or brackish water with plenty of mud for foraging, so are found on open seashores, saltmarshes, lagoons and lakes; also estuaries and mudflats outside of the breeding season. The sexes appear fairly similar, but males have a slightly longer, less sharply upturned bill, and females may have slightly less sharply-defined black/brown head markings. Juveniles look similar but with generally duller brown markings which are more extensive. Avocets have webbed feet so can swim through deeper water as well as wading in shallower water. In the UK they are found around English coasts and also at localised inland sites with suitable habitat (my nearest Avocet colony is at Upton Warren); they are patchily distributed around the coast of Europe and north Africa, with northernmost breeders generally wintering further south, central and southern breeders generally being resident, and wintering populations generally only found in southermost Europe and north Africa. Although there is a bit of overlap between all of those! Further afield, their distribution spreads all the way across to China.

Pied Avocet, ©├ůsa Berndtsson, via Flickr Creative Commons.
Pied Avocet painting.
Haven't had as much time as I would've liked this week for painting, as I've been hard at work practicing for my driving theory test, which I passed this afternoon - hurrah. Now I'm heading off to a Wildlife Trust talk about badgers! Woo Friday night, I know how to party!

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