Avocet Life Cycle: From Nest Building to Fledging

Avocet Life Cycle: From Nest Building to Fledging

Avocets are black and white wading birds with a distinctive patternation and a long beak that is turned upwards.  They are protected in the UK and the image of an avocet is used as the emblem of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).

They used the avocet as their symbol as it epitomises the bird protection organisation in the UK in a way that’s greater than any other bird species. The avocet was extinct in the UK but was returned to UK shores in the 1940s and its increase in numbers since then is testament to one of the UKs most successful conservation projects.

The avocet is a medium sized wader which is black and white with a black cap that continues down the back of their neck. They have long, blue legs which make them easy to identify.

Keep reading to find out more about this fascinating bird.

How Long Does An Avocet Live?

The avocet has a typical lifespan in the wild of around 6 years. They typically start to breed when they are around 2 years old.

There have been reports of some ringed avocets living for more than 24 years but this is rare.

How Fast Can An Avocet Fly?

The avocet has been recorded flying at 25 MPH which is 40 KPH or 11 metres per second.

Are Avocets Aggressive?

Female Avocet

Overall the avocet is a relatively peaceful bird. However, they can exhibit aggressive behaviour when in their breeding colonies and they detect any would be predators.

In the UK the biggest threat to an avocet when breeding are cats, dogs, foxes, weasels and stoats. They can also display this aggressive behaviour if birds of another species try to nest within the boundary of their colony.

What Is An Avocet’s Habitat?

Avocets prefer shallow coastal lagoons and are often found nesting in coastal areas specifically along the east coast of the UK during the breeding season, and southern estuaries and mudflats during the winter.

They feed on aquatic insects, worms and crustaceans. Using their upturned beak to sift through the shallow water.

How Long Does It Take For An Avocet To Build A Nest?

The actual nest itself is made quite quickly as it is a scrape nest, however, the male will show an area to the female and she will decide if it’s where she wants to nest. It’s this careful choosing of the site that can take some time.

They prefer to nest in the open on low muddy islands, but can often be found on shingle or in short grass or reed beds.


In this section we’re going to look at the breeding cycle of avocets and concentrate on their eggs.

When Do Avocets Lay Eggs?

Avocets don’t reach sexual maturity until they are around 2 years old. At this point they find a mate (typically just for this season), agree on a nesting site, build a shallow nest and then the female lays her eggs from around mid April.

There have been recorded cases where avocets have started nest building earlier and in some cases have even laid eggs in mid March.

How Many Eggs Does An Avocet Lay?

The female avocet typically lays a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs and only lays one brood per year. The survival ratio of eggs to chicks is around 50% which means they only rear around 1 to 2 chicks from a 3 to 5 egg brood.

What Do Avocet Eggs Look Like?

Avocet eggs are approximately 50 x 35 mm in size and are a buff/pale yellow colour with dark brown almost black patches or spots. The colour and markings on the eggs make them blend into the ground if seen from above.

How Long Do Avocet Eggs Take To Hatch?

Both parents incubate the eggs for around 22 to 24 days before the chicks hatch. The eggs take 3 to 3 ½ weeks to hatch and are incubated constantly by each parent taking it in turns.


In this section we’ll take a look at the next stage in the development of the life cycle of the avocet-the chicks.

How Many Chicks Does An Avocet Have?

From a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs the average survival rate is around 50% which means the typical brood is around 2 chicks. However, the survival rate of eggs to chicks is greatly increased in some sheltered coastal sites.

With as many as all 5 eggs reaching adulthood in some cases.

When Do Avocet Chicks Open Their Eyes?

Avocet chicks are precocial which means they are hatched with their eyes open and covered in down. They typically can leave the nest after 1 to 2 days and can swim and feed themselves almost immediately.

However, the chicks won’t start to fly until they are around a month old.

When Do Avocet Chicks Fledge?

As we said earlier, avocet chicks are born with their eyes open and can walk and swim almost as soon as they are hatched. They usually start to walk and swim as well as feed themselves around 1 to 2 days after hatching.

However, they stay with their parents for around 30 to 40 days before fledging.

SEE ALSO: Arctic Skua Vs Great Skua: Key Differences Explained

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the lifespan of an Avocet?

In the wild, the average lifespan of an avocet is around 6 years, However there have been individuals that have lived for as long as 24 years.

What colour are Avocet eggs?

Avocet eggs are a buff or pale yellow colour and covered in dark brown spots or patches.

How many eggs do avocets lay?

Avocets lay somewhere between 3 to 5 eggs.

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