The avocet (order Charadriiformes, family Recurvirostridae) is a large, long-legged shorebird about 50 cm long with striking white and black plumage.
The 4 species of avocets (one in each of North and South America, Eurasia, Australia and New Zealand) breed in small, loose colonies in coastal salt marshes and shallow, alkaline inland lakes. The American avocet (Recurvirostra americana), with a cinnamon neck and bright blue legs, breeds in southern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and western Ontario and south to California and Texas, wintering in Texas, California and Central America.
Avocets feed on small crustaceans, worms and other benthic (bottom-dwelling) animals. Their long, slender, upward-curving bills are well adapted to their hunting technique. The birds wade slowly through shallow water, sweeping their bills from side to side just above the muddy bottom and seizing whatever prey is stirred up.
Avocet numbers have declined with reclamation of their marshy habitats. However, their re-establishment in Britain since the 1940s is a classic example of successful conservation of an endangered animal through habitat management.