A large slender shorebird with a long, slender, recurved bill (longer and straighter in males than in females), long spindly legs, and a long neck; wings and back are boldly patterned with black and white; belly and flanks are white; head and neck and rusty in breeding plumage, gray in basic plumage; juveniles have a cinnamon wash on the head and neck; average length 46 cm.
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
No other North American shorebird with a recurved bill has both a white belly and bold black and white patterning on the folded wings and back.
Western Hemisphere Range
In the Bozeman area the normal migration periods are from April 25 to May 25 and September 1 to October 5 with peaks on May 10 and September 10.
During the breeding season, they are found in marshes, ponds, mud flats, and alkaline lakes. During migration, American Avocets are found in salt marshes or lagoons with muddy shorelines. They winter in thick, silted tidal flats and areas of intertidal mudflats.
American Avocets forage in shallow mud flats in search of aquatic invertebrates, small fish, and insects in the water column.
Nesting is in late May and June.