Thursday, May 30, 2013

American Avocet

American Avocets delighted John Holden and me as we travelled across northern South Dakota along Highway 10 north of Aberdeen. The avocets were tame and fed along barrow pits on both sides of the road. The species feeds with a variety of methods. They are famous for using their bills as a scythe, swishing the bills back and forth as they catch small aquatic invertebrates. They also peck, plunge, scrape, and snatch. Avocets use their exceptionally sensitive bills to feel for prey. Sometimes, like in the second photo, avocets feed while swimming. Other times, food is snatched while the avocet walks erratically in shallow water. Check out this last photo. Finally, avocets often feed near phalaropes, hoping to feed on invertebrates and small fish that the spinning sandpipers stir up from the lake bottoms (see previous post) (Robinson et al. 1997).

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