LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- This week's bird is the American Avocet. I thought surely I had already done this amazing, gorgeous, and unique bird, but it looks like I have not yet! This is a good time of year for it. They come through Arkansas during both Spring and Fall migration. They are listed as rare during Spring migration (mid-April through mid-May) and as uncommon during Fall migration (July through early November).
In hot weather, the best type of birding is "car birding"…obviously this is birding from the car! Shorebirds provide great opportunities in late Summer/ early Fall in Arkansas and many species can be found in great numbers in shallow wetlands and mudflats, which can often be viewed from county roads around the state. An excellent public area to check for shorebirds is Bald Knob National Wildlife Refuge. Of course you'll need your binoculars to get a decent look at most of these birds, but a spotting scope can make viewing them even better. Shorebirds are actually great for beginning birders thanks to their tendency to stand in one place in the wide open for relatively long periods of time. You can get great looks at them and have plenty of time to consult your field guide until you feel confident in your identification of each species!
The American Avocet is a favorite of mine thanks to its conspicuous plumage, relatively large size, and unique bill. This bird is the only bird in North America with an upturned bill, so it is unmistakable. When you've seen an American Avocet, you know it! It sweeps its upturned bill through shallow water to catch small invertebrates.