Why does the Avocet have an upturned beak?

Why does the Avocet have an upturned, or upcurved, beak?

The Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is a small bird in the Recurvirostridae family of waders. It has long legs to wade in water. It lives in wetlands, such as marshes, swamps, lakes, estuaries, and rivers.

The Avocet has a long, thin, upcurved black beak. It measures about 8 centimetres (3 inches) long. Many wetlands birds, such as Ibis and Curlew, have a long, thin downturned beak, but the Avocet has an upturned beak.

The Avocet’s beak is called a scything beak. It looks like a scythe, which is a long, upcurved knife or blade that is used to cut grass. A person holds the scythe while bending down and moving the scythe from side to side. 

The Avocet uses its beak like a scythe to forage for food when it wades in the water. It shakes its head slowly, from side to side, in the water as it looks for insects, worms, and crabs. 

The Pied Avocet is also known as the Black-Capped Avocet. It lives in eastern and southern African countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. It lives in colonies of 10-200 birds.

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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