American Avocet

When I first started birdwatching, this is the bird I wanted to see. I love water and naturally enjoy searching for waterfowl, shorebirds, and birds that inhabit marshes.  This bird, the American Avocet always fascinated me.  The American Avocet is a rare vagrant to Wisconsin where I live. It sometimes shows up briefly along Lake Michigan during spring and fall migrations. For three years now, I’ve seen the reports on e-bird occasionally reporting a few American Avocets migrating up and down the lake., but by the time I get there, they’re gone.

I’ve seen them before out west and they always excite me. They have a fragile elegance to them. Their coloration is striking, their call both musical and whimsical, and with their long legs, upturned bill and a head that makes them both smug and comical at the same time, they’re always fascinating to see.

Unexpectedly, in a flock of about 25 seagulls on a blustery September day was this lone American Avocet poking around Bender Park in Milwaukee, WI.  For me it was the “lifer” for my Milwaukee bird list and I was thrilled to see it, but I always struggle with vagrants. We humans draw hard geographic lines: Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, United States that our wildlife just do not see. For them, their distribution is a density diagram.  What a birder may think of as a rare, vagrant in their area is really a statistical outlier.  They don’t quite belong.

While I was thrilled to see this bird, I’m wondering where its headed.  Does it know how to get back to its population region?  Just where does it think its going?
American Avocet

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