The Avocet

02nd May 2012
I have decided to focus this post on the Avocet, a bird I have been fortunate enough to observe on several occasions in the past 12 months, and a bird which symbolises the requirements and the rewards of good conservation work.

The Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is a boldly patterned wader, with distinctive black and white colouration and a slender upturned bill. Avocets are large birds, but use this specially adapted bill to sweep side to side through the water of their coastal salt lagoon habitat, to catch small insects and crustaceans.

The Avocet is recognisable to many as the symbol of the RSPB, adopted after Avocets returned to the UK as a breeding species in 1947, over 100 years after its extinction in the country. Conservation efforts created the specific coastal lagoons which the species require, and protection from human disturbance which was one of the main reasons for the birds initial decline.

In the winter they form small flocks which feed on estuaries and coastal marshes around the UK. During this time, numbers swell around Britain as migrant birds join natives to make use of the rich feeding grounds and escape colder conditions elsewhere.

These flocks break up for the breeding season instead loose breeding colonies made up of several different breeding pairs may form. Both adult birds incubate the eggs and protect the nest from predators.

When the young hatch, they can feed and move around within a matter of hours but often still dependent on their parents for some time.

In the UK, Avocets now number 877 breeding pairs, a true conservation success story. The photographs featured here were taken at RSPB Elmley Marshes and RSPB Leighton Moss reserves in England.

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