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the web of life in southern Africa

Recurvirostra avosetta (Pied avocet, Avocet) 

Bontelsie [Afrikaans]; Kluut [Dutch]; Avocette élégante [French]; Säbelschnäbler [German]; Alfaiate [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Recurvirostridae

Recurvirostra avosetta (Pied avocet, Avocet) Recurvirostra avosetta (Pied avocet, Avocet)

Pied avocet. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Pied avocet, Velddrif, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of the old world, from China and Mongolia to Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, largely excluding the forests of the DRC and West and East Africa. In southern Africa it is locally common in patches of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and South Africa. It generally prefers saline and temporary wetlands, as well as flood plains, salt-marshes and sewage works.

Distribution of Pied avocet in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

  • Parasites
    • Theromyzon cooperi (African duck leech)

Movements and migrations

Nomadic and partially migratory, moving in search of areas which have experienced recent rainfall so that it can stay at the resultant ephemeral pans.


It mainly eats invertebrates, especially crustaceans and Chironomid larvae, occasionally supplemented with fish. It typically forages tactilely, filtering and scraping food with its head submerged, or using a technique in which swings its bill from side to side in a scything motion. It may also locate prey visually and pluck them from the water surface, alternatively dabbling in deeper water like a duck. At Lake St. Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal, it was once observed hunting soles (Soleidae).


  • Monogamous, usually solitary nester, although it sometimes breeds in loose colonies of up to 100 pairs.
  • The nest (see images below) is built by both sexes, consisting of a simple scrape or animal footprint in the ground, untidily lined with material such as small twigs, feather, scraps of vegetation and shells.
Recurvirostra avosetta (Pied avocet, Avocet) 

Pied avocet at nest. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

Recurvirostra avosetta (Pied avocet, Avocet)  Recurvirostra avosetta (Pied avocet, Avocet) 

Pied avocet at its nest with eggs, Wakkerstroom, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

Pied avocet eggs in nest, Wakkerstroom, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is year-round, generally peaking from June-October and from March-April.
  • It lays 1-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 22-27 days.
  • The chicks are led to the water soon after hatching and are cared for both parents, taking their first flight at about 26-28 days old but remaining with the adults well after fledging.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.