Breeding birds: 1,500 pairs
Wintering birds: 7,500
Family: Avocets & stilts
Avocets have a white body with black scapulars and sides to their mantles. On the upperwing the outer lesser coverts, median coverts, and outer six primary flight feathers are black, and they have 3 black bands on the wing. The underparts are white.
The forehead, crown, nape, and upper hindneck are black, whereas the chin, throat, foreneck, and cheeks are white. They have a long, black bill which curves up at the end, the eyes are dark brown, and the long legs and webbed feet are pale slate-grey.
Male and female are similar, except the female has a shorter and more curved bill than the male.
Juvenile avocets have less contrasting plumage, with brown tinges to the black parts, and grey or buff mottling to the white parts.
Avocets breed between mid-April and June. They nest in colonies of about 150 pairs. The nest is built by male and female on mud or sparse vegetation. It is either a scrape in the ground or a mound made of stems, roots and leaves from marsh vegetation, lined with grass.
Avocets lay 3-4 pale buff eggs with black markings, which are incubated by both parents for 23-25 days. The chicks are covered in silvery-grey down and can leave the nest and feed themselves within a few hours of hatching. They fledge at about 35-42 days but will remain dependent on their parents for some time afterwards.
Avocets’ diet consists of invertebrates such as crustaceans, worms and insects. They feed in the shallow water of lagoons either by picking prey from the surface or using their bills to sweep through loose sediment.
Avocets are found along the east coast of England in the summer and the south-west in the winter. The Exe estuary is a particularly good location to see them.
The RSPB first used the avocet as a symbol in 1955 although it was not incorporated into its logo until 1970.
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