American Avocet
(Recurvirostra americana)


Picture of bird
© Jukka Jantunen (
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The American Avocet breeds near shallow wetlands and alkaline lakes in southern regions of the prairie provinces, but the majority of the species' range lies south of the Canadian border. Historically, the species was more widespread, with breeding records north to the Northwest Territories and east to New Jersey in the 1800s. Despite the historic range contraction, Breeding Bird Survey results indicate that the population has increased relative to 1970 and the species is currently within the acceptable bounds of its national population goal. Still, American Avocets face documented and significant threats from pollution and loss of wetland habitats. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaModerate IncreaseHighAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada50,000 - 100,000 adults (includes birds breeding and migrating within Canada)

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between early May and mid-May and ends in mid-July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

The American Avocet was largely extirpated from eastern North America prior to 1900 by shooting and trapping (Ackerman et al. 2013). In the western United States, the species uses wetlands heavily contaminated by agricultural irrigation practices; reproductive failure as a result of selenium and methylmercury contamination has been documented (Williams et al. 1989, Ackerman et al. 2013) and may be a widespread issue (Seiler and Skorupa 1995). The American Avocet is susceptible to loss and degradation of natural wetlands for breeding and to pollution of estuarine wintering habitats (Ackerman et al. 2013). However, shrimp aquaculture farming has been shown to benefit migrating avocets by providing a seasonal source of food during the shrimp harvesting period (Navedo et al. 2015).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Great BasinGreat Basin, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Northern RockiesNorthern Rockies, sub-region and priority type: Pacific and Yukon -- Other
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other