Australian Bush Birds
Red-necked Avocet  -  Recurvirostra novaehollandiae
Red-necked Avocet
Red-necked Avocets in a shallow, saline pondage near Mildura
map map The Red-necked Avocet - Recurvirostra novaehollandiae - has a distinctive, long, black, upturned bill distinguishing it from the closely related stilts. The Avocet has long legs, like the stilt, but the toes are partly webbed allowing it to swim readily. Legs are long and blue-grey. Head and upper neck are chestnut coloured (bright chestnut in direct sunlight) with a prominent white eye-ring; eye is red-brown. Body, including lower neck, and tail are white. Wings are black and white; mostly white with black tips and angled black bars on the upper wing making a striking visual effect in flight. In flight the legs trail well behind the tail.

Male and female adults are similar in colouring. Juveniles are duller in colour, with dull, pale brown heads instead of chestnut of the adults; Wing marking are generally browner instead of black. Juveniles are coloured brown and buff along the back. Adults reach 40 to 48 centimetres.

Red-necked Avocets
Red-necked Avocets gathered to rest in an isolated part of a water body near Mildura, Vic.
Red-necked Avocet - page 2
Avocets feed mainly by wading through shallow water or soft mud and sweeping their partly open bills from side to side just above, and parallel to, the muddy or sandy bottom finding shrimps, insects, molluscs, worms and fish by touch. In clear water they pick up prey by jabbing at it. Very young birds fed by jabbing with their straight bills, but as their bills lengthen and curve they change to sweeping.

Usually in large flocks a safe distance form the shore in estuaries, tidal mudflats, claypans, sewage ponds, as well as fresh, brackish and salt swamps and lakes. Tends to congregate on large, shallow, salt lakes, particularly as salinity increases through evaporation; then they feed on brine shrimps. Frequently in mixed groups with stilts. Found across most of Southern and Central Australia west of the Great Dividing Range. Rare on the east and north coasts. Occasional visitor to Tasmania.

Often swims, frequently in groups,

Red-necked Avocets
Red-necked Avocets swimming together.
Breeding takes place from August to December depending on weather. The nest is a depression in the ground lined with scraps of swamp vegetation; located on small islands in lakes or flooded ground, or at the edge of a swamp. Nests are in dispersed aggregations.

Usually four eggs are laid; olive-brown to pale brown, heavily spotted and blotched with dark brown and grey; oval, about 48 by 33 millimetres. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 3 to 4 weeks; young hatch at about the same time and soon leave the nest; they are brooded by the parents at night while still small.

 ¶  Genus Recurvirostra is in Family Recurvirostridae with the Black-winged Stilt and the Banded Stilt.