Saturday, June 27, 2009

American Avocet at Malheur refuge

American AvocetAmerican Avocet, Hines, Oregon on 23 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.


Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is an oasis in Oregon's sage desert southeast corner. This special area provides many opportunities for observing large, unique birds at close range in spring. I had the opportunity to spend nearly a week at Malheur in late May. Here is another photo from that trip.

Two of the most flamboyant shorebirds at Malheur are the Black-necked Stilt and American Avocet. While the black-and-white stilt sports impossibly long coral red legs, the avocet displays a rusty head and upturned bill perched on long blue-gray legs.

The range of American Avocet is a bit complex, but primarily seasonal wetlands in western North America. It is found in the prairie potholes of central Canada and the US. It is also found in the Great Basin lakes. Other breeding areas include coastal California from San Francisco south into Baja, Gulf coast of Texas and Mexico, interior Mexico, and isolated East Coast areas as far north as Virginia. Birds winter coastally from central California southward.

In the Pacific NW these striking birds breed in wetlands from SE British Columbia, southern Idaho, southeastern Washington, eastern Oregon, and northern California and southward. Winter birds are regular from San Francisco Bay, south.

The edges of the breeding range and the number of birds breeding in any location fluctuates from year-to-year based on water levels regionally. During periods of drought in the Southwestern United States, birds may move farther north in larger numbers in spring.