Recurvirostra avosetta (Linnaeus, 1758) AV AVOCE 4560
Family: Charadriiformes > Recurvirostridae

Avocet, Allan Drewitt

The Avocet is a long-legged wading bird with striking pied plumage and a long, thin upturned bill.

Re-establishing itself as a British breeding species in 1947 on the Suffolk coast, Avocets now breed more widely around England's east coast. In winter the population is augmented by birds from Europe. Large flocks can be found in suitable coastal habitat, predominantly in the south-east and south-west of England.

Although still predominantly a coastal breeder, atlas data reveal an increasing number of inland breeding locations. However, coastal freshwater marshes are where Avocets are seen at their best. Elegant bluish-grey legs enable a purposeful gait as they sweep their bill from side to side in shallow water to sift tiny invertebrates from the mud.


Avocet identification is usually straightforward.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Avocet, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Alarm call


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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Avocets have since substantially increased both their population (Eaton et al. 2021) and their range (Balmer et al. 2013) during the second half of the twentieth century and subsequently. They are now breeding in suitable wetland locations scattered across most of England and also in Wales, predominantly at coastal sites, and have recently even bred in the Outer Hebrides (Eaton et al. 2021). The five-year mean for the period 2015–2019 reported by the RBBP was 2,138 pairs, an increase of more than 300% in the 25 years to 2019 (Eaton et al. 2021).


The Avocet's breeding distribution is centred in eastern and southeast England but over recent decades has spread westwards and northwards. By 2008–11 there was one pair in Wales and several pairs in northwest England with the most northerly breeding site in Northumberland. Since then Avocets have continued to spread north, breeding in Scotland for the first time in 2018. In winter the largest concentrations lie around the Thames and Medway Estuaries, on the Suffolk coast and along the south coast between the Solent and Poole Harbour.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Avocets are recorded throughout the year but encountered more widely in spring and summer when birds move away from localised wintering sites to dispersed breeding locations.

Weekly occurence of Avocet from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Avocet ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Avocet, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Gob-ceàrr
Welsh: Cambig
Catalan: bec d'alena comú
Czech: tenkozobec opacný
Danish: Klyde
Dutch: Kluut
Estonian: naaskelnokk
Finnish: avosetti
French: Avocette élégante
German: Säbelschnäbler
Hungarian: gulipán
Icelandic: Bjúgnefja
Irish: Abhóiséad
Italian: Avocetta
Latvian: avozeta
Lithuanian: paprastoji avocete
Norwegian: Avosett
Polish: szablodziób (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: alfaiate
Slovak: šabliarka modronohá
Slovenian: sabljarka
Spanish: Avoceta común
Swedish: skärfläcka
Folkname: Scooper, Crooked-bill


Interpretation and scientific publications about Avocet from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

A study in Germany found that predation by foxes and flooding affected hatching success and that June temperatures were the main determinant of chick survival, which was the main factor influencing breeding productivity (Hötker & Segebade 2000). This might suggest climate change as a possible driver of the UK increases but this is speculative in the absence of specific evidence from the UK and it should be borne in mind that climate change could also have negative effects on chick survival in the UK if it leds to wetter summers.


Peer-reviewed papers
Avocet - Amy Lewis

Consequences of population change for local abundance and site occupancy of wintering waterbirds

Wavering Waterbirds

2017 | Méndez, V., Gill, J.A., Alves, J.A., Burton, N.H.K. & Davies, R.G.Diversity and Distributions

Protected sites are assigned based on population statistics for vulnerable and endangered species. This new study using WeBS data shows that changes in population size can affect local abundance, and thus influence whether or not key targets are met for site protection.

Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com

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