American Avocet Continues Recovery

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

The American Avocet has a quirky yet elegant upturned bill. Their uniquely shaped bill helps them forage in shallow water for aquatic invertebrates such as beetles, water fleas, fairy shrimp, and more! The Avocet will capture their prey through the motion of sweeping side to side, a signature behavior called scything. Pecking and plunging are other commonly used methods of catching prey.

During the summer, these long-legged wading birds sport a black and white body with rusty colored heads and necks. In the wintertime, their head and neck will turn a grayish white color. The oldest recorded American Avocet was found in California a decade after it had been banded; it was thought to be at least 15 years of age.

Male and female avocets share the burden of creating a nesting location. The male will lead the female around making marks in the ground until they both decide on a nesting spot. They will make a small depression using their breast or feet and line the area with nesting materials such as grass, vegetation, feathers, pebbles, and other small objects. It is not uncommon to have a nest that is unlined. Once the eggs are laid, the avocet parents may add lining to the nest to protect it from waters threatening to flood the area. To protect their eggs from overheating, they will dip their belly feathers in water.

American Avocets will lay one brood of up to three to four eggs. The eggs are oval shaped and a greenish brown color with irregular dark spots. American Avocets sometimes lay their eggs in the nest of other females who may incubate them without noticing. Other times, Black-necked Stilts will lay their eggs in avocets’ nests which the Avocet will rear as if the hatchlings were its own. Avocets will breed in loose colonies to have extra individuals around in case the nests are in need of defense. If an intruder comes too close, they will be met by a group of avocets who will approach with outstretched wings and an off-balance gait which appears as if they were trying to balance on a tightrope.

Avocet chicks will leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching. Day-old avocets can swim, walk, and dive to escape predators. In response to predators, adult avocets will give a series of calls gradually rising in pitch to deceive predators of their proximity and give the illusion that they are approaching much faster than they actually are.

On August 5, an American Avocet (#21-4275) was admitted from Sanibel after being found on the ground unable to fly. During examination, veterinarians noted severe muscle weakness. The bird had trouble controlling its feet and standing properly. Veterinarians suspected red tide poisoning, another toxin, or systemic disease. A catheter was placed for IV fluids and supportive medication. The bird was treated for red tide poisoning with a lipid emulsion therapy which uses lipids and fats to detoxify the system. Days later, the Avocet began to show mental improvement and leg movement! It has started both assisted and water physical therapy to strengthen its legs!

THIS WEEK AT CROW (8/7-8/13):
There were 121 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 22 loggerhead hatchlings, seven Northern raccoons, six mourning doves, an Eastern kingbird, an American redstart, a Florida box turtle, and a hispid cotton rat. Recent Releases include three loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings, a black-crowned night heron, a red-eyed vireo, and a Florida box turtle. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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