Monday, October 17, 2011

American Avocets, Winter Plumage

American Avocets, Recurvirostra americana (so named for it's upturned beak -- aka recurved rostrum), resting on an exposed sand bar in the middle of the Mission River. Yes, the Avocets are back sporting their ever so stylish black and white formal Winter plumage! I had been to the Mission River for years without ever seeing an avocet until I realized that the little guys hang out in the shallows in the MIDDLE of the river, far from feral cats and stray dogs. Now that I know where to look, they're readily visible, albeit with a huge lens or perhaps binoculars.

I also puzzled for quite a while over the funky upturned beaks, wondering how they manage to eat anything at all with such beaks. However, it became fairly obvious upon watching them feed. They sweep those upturned beaks in shallow water over the mud and sand bottom kind of like a scythe cutting through wheat. The beaks scare up small water bugs and crustaceans which, as they are trying to flee the disturbance, become the Avocet's next meal.

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