EVERY WEEK IN 2017 WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST.
This week, it is Avocet and Oystercatcher
This week we look at two waders which are about as close to unmistakable as you can get for shorebirds, in a UK context. Both are large for waders and both are black and white. They are, of course, nothing like each other
A largish wader (about the size of a godwit), the gleaming white and black Avocet is just about the epitome of elegance in a wading bird. The legs are long and pale blue-grey and the ultrafine upturned bill is unique among British wading birds. Avocets having been breeding in the UK since their return during WWII and there are now about 1,500 breeding pairs in the country with their stronghold in East Anglia and east and south-east England. Some 7,500 individuals also winter in the UK, especially in the south and south-west of England.
Just about the only possible confusion species, is the much larger Shelduck, but only if seen very distantly.
Avocets feed in lagoons and pools, with a sweeping motion of their famous bills. They wade to considerable depth on their long legs, but also readily swim (the feet are partially webbed).
Avocets return to the breeding sites in early spring, and can pass through suitable wetland sites.
Big and chunky the black and white Oystercatcher with its large, bright orange ‘carrot’ of a bill is another unmistakable bird in the a UK context( there are similar oystercatcher species on other continents). They are generally spread around our coasts (with 110, 000 breeding pairs), but they also breed inland, returning to breeding sites in February and March. Oystercatchers are noisy waders, shouting out ‘Kebeep’ or ‘The beak!’ if you prefer.
The big orange bill is used as a tool for eating a variety of bivalves (not just oysters!) as well as other invertebrates.
Oystercatchers start returning to breeding sites in late winter into early spring.
All photos from Alamy