Recurvirostridae – Stilts & avocets

Medium-sized birds who are always ready for any formal occasion with their tuxedo-like plumage

These birds are recognized for their elongated legs and uniquely shaped beaks, which curve upwards in avocets and are straight and needle-like in stilts. Their specialized beaks reflect their feeding habits and the ecological niches they occupy.

Recurvirostridae members are adapted for life in aquatic environments, often found near the water’s edge on mudflats, shores, and marshes. Many species within this family possess partially webbed feet, an adaptation that assists them in swimming efficiently. Combined with their long legs, this feature allows them to wade into deeper waters than many other waders can manage, giving them access to a unique prey selection.

The plumage of recurvirostrids is generally black and white, which can be strikingly patterned. This coloration provides camouflage in the dappled light of their watery habitats. It is similar in both males and females, suggesting that sexual selection does not play a significant role in plumage differences for these species.

The diet of recurvirostrids typically includes a variety of invertebrates, fish, frogs, and occasionally some plant material. Their foraging strategies vary, with some species sweeping their beaks through the water to catch prey while others pick off food items from the surface or probe the mud.

The classification of the Recurvirostridae family has been debated among ornithologists. Some place these birds within the order Charadriiformes, while others suggest they are closely related to the Scolopacidae family. Regardless of their classification, there is consensus that these birds form a distinct group with their own unique behaviors and adaptations.

Globally, the Recurvirostridae family consists of 13 species found in most regions, except for the extreme northern latitudes. The ibisbill and the black stilt are exceptions within the family, being more solitary in their habits. In contrast, other members, such as avocets and stilts, are highly gregarious, often found foraging in large flocks that can number in the thousands. These flocks can be particularly prominent during migration and in non-breeding seasons.