Photographed in Bosque del Apache NWR in May 2009
The American Avocet takes elegance to a new level. This long-legged wader glides through shallow waters swishing its slender, upturned bill from side to side to catch aquatic invertebrates. It dons a sophisticated look for summer with a black-and-white body and a rusty head and neck. During the winter the head and neck turn a grayish white, but the bird loses none of its elegance as it forages along coastal waters or rests while standing on one leg.
In response to predators, the American Avocet gives a series of call notes that gradually rise in pitch, simulating the Doppler effect and making its approach seem faster than it actually is.
A female American Avocet sometimes lays eggs in the nest of another female, who incubates them without noticing. This is called “brood parasitism,” and American Avocets may do it to other species, too; American Avocet eggs have been found in the nests of Mew Gulls. On the other hand, species such as Common Terns and Black-necked Stilts may also parasitize avocet nests. In the case of the stilts, the avocets reared the hatchlings as if they were their own.
American Avocets place their nests directly on the ground without the benefit of shrubs to provide shade. To keep the eggs from overheating during incubation, they dip their belly feathers in water.
American Avocet chicks leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching. Day-old avocets can walk, swim, and even dive to escape predators.
Photographed in Anahuac NWR. I have many photos of this bird but this is one that really shows you that "green" eye.
A nearly all-black waterbird with a snaky neck, the Neotropic Cormorant occurs in sheltered waters of southern U.S. states, the Caribbean, and Latin America. It is smaller and longer-tailed than other cormorants, but otherwise looks very similar to the Double-crested Cormorant, and the two species often flock together. Unlike its larger cousin, it sometimes plunge-dives for fish from a few feet above the water, almost like a booby, though it dives mostly as it paddles along the water’s surface, catching fish as it darts through the water.
After a population drop in the 1960s, possibly due to the effects of DDT, the Neotropic Cormorant has rebounded and expanded its range rapidly in the United States. The species now nests in new areas including Arizona, New Mexico, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, and Louisiana. In some places where their ranges meet, Neotropic and Double-crested Cormorant have nested together in mixed pairs and have produced hybrid offspring.
Neotropic Cormorant’s calls are sometimes likened to piglike grunts. In Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries, local names that allude to this call include “pig duck” (pato cerdo, pato puerco), “dirty duck” (pato chancho), and “oinking duck (pato gruñón)!
The Neotropic Cormorant is the only cormorant that plunges from midair into water to catch fish. Unlike gannets and boobies, it does not dive from great heights, restricting its dives to less than a 2 feet over the water.
In Mexico, Neotropic Cormorants reportedly fish cooperatively. The birds form a line across swift-flowing streams and strike the surface with their wings. This scares fish into motion, whereupon the cormorants dive and pursue them.
You can see the white outline around the bird's face in this photo taken in Anahuac NWR
A dark wading bird with a long, down-curved bill, the White-faced Ibis is a western replacement for the Glossy Ibis. Similar in appearance and habits, the two species can be distinguished only by slight differences in coloring of the face and legs.