American Avocet

Dear Avocet,

When I perused last year’s photo archive and found a series of portraits of you, my heart went into a happy little dance. You blessed us with your presence at a local lake during fall migration for one full golden October week. Only you know where you had come from and where you were going. I wondered if you had been born only this summer, and were somehow left behind when your parents, brothers, and sisters took off for warmer climes. Or if you were a loner, who liked to travel on your own.

Watching you forage for sustenance to power you through your upcoming journey, rest your legs, or even take a nap while people and dogs were milling about touched me deeply, but also made me worry about your future, the obstacles on your way to your winter quarters, the countless challenges and dangers awaiting you. I hope you are safe and well-fed.

We humans are always admonished against employing flattery, but if it’s honest and sincere, I don’t see a problem with it. So please allow me to tell you that ever since I first had the pleasure of getting to know one of your kind, you have enchanted me. With your slender legs, long neck, curved bill, and exquisite plumage, you are elegance personified. Whether or not your feathers are black, white, and gray, or ginger-colored accents beautify your head, neck, and throat during breeding season, you dazzle.

You had me at first sight.


Your admirer

Lieber Säbelschnäbler,

Als ich mein Photoarchiv vom vergangenen Jahr durchsah, und auf eine Serie Deiner Porträts stieß, machte mein Herz einige frohe Sprünge. Du beglücktest uns während des Herbstzuges mit Deiner Präsenz an einem hiesigen See eine ganze goldene Oktoberwoche lang. Du allein wußtest, woher Du kamst und wohin Du wolltest. Ich fragte mich, ob Du erst in diesem Sommer geboren wurdest, und vielleicht den Anschluß an Deine Eltern, Brüder und Schwestern verpaßt hattest, als sie sich gen wärmere Gefilde aufmachten. Oder vielleicht warst Du lieber allein unterwegs.

Dir zuzuschauen, wie Du nach Futter suchtest, um Dich für Deine bevorstehende Reise zu stärken, wie Du Deine Beine ausruhtest oder sogar ein Nickerchen hieltest, während sich Menschen und Hunde in der Nähe tummelten, bewegte mich zutiefst, ließ mich aber auch um Deine Zukunft fürchten, um all die Hindernisse auf dem Weg zu Deinem Winterquartier sowie die zahllosen Herausforderungen und Gefahren, die auf Dich warteten. Ich hoffe, Du bist satt und in Sicherheit.

Wir Menschen werden immer vor Schmeicheleien gewarnt, doch wenn sie ehrlich und ernst gemeint sind, sehe ich damit keine Probleme. Erlaube mir deshalb, Dir zu sagen, daß Du mir seit meiner ersten Begegnung mit einem Deiner Artgenossen das Herz gestohlen hast. Mit Deinen schlanken Beinen, Deinem langen Nacken, gebogenen Schnabel und auserlesenen Gefieder verkörperst Du reine Eleganz. Egal, ob Deine Federn schwarz, weiß und grau sind, oder rötliche Akzente Dir Kopf, Hals und Brust in der Brutsaison verschönern, Du bist einfach hinreißend.

Es war Liebe auf den ersten Blick.


Deine Verehrerin

54 thoughts on “American Avocet

  1. “Saber-beak” is an appropriate name in German. Here’s how the American Heritage Dictionary traces the origins of avocet: French avocette, from New Latin avocetta, misspelling of avosetta, from Italian, from Venetian, probably from Vulgar Latin *avis sitta : Latin avis, bird + Greek sitt, a kind of woodpecker or nuthatch (probably of onomatopoeic origin and imitative of the bird’s sound.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully written, Tanja, and stunning photos of a unique and fascinating bird! I feel your words so many times when I encounter a species of wildlife and we ‘had’ a special moment together. I can go back in my archives to some fond photos and still remember the moment and location, just as you. Special times, special memories!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Donna. That’s exactly how I feel about some of my photos. Some people think that taking them distracts from being present in the moment, but that’s not my experience. It simply enhances those special moments, and later on triggers happy memories. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a lovely post! I don’t think I’ve ever seen an avocet, but I’ll be sure to look this Summer when I get to Cape Cod. In my yard, I’ve realized that the same birds and other creatures stay with us for at least a season. Last year, I saw a butterfly that had a bit of its wing missing. It was around for many days, and I wondered how it was hurt. We also had a rabbit with a white mark on its nose who we named Silver Blaze, like the Sherlock Holmes story. They are so vulnerable!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Julie. I hope you will get to see some avocets. Their orange necks will make them even more conspicuous and lovely.
      It is nice to get to know our yard critters and to observe their behavior. The more I learn about them, the more I appreciate how everything is interconnected.
      Kind regards,


  4. I had exactly one day to observe an avocet, down at the refuge, although I know they’re more common around here. They are beautiful, and great fun to watch, like the kildeer and the black-necked stilts. I usually end up talking to them, especially when I’m worried about them, or find them particularly beautiful. Scientific detachment isn’t my strong suit; I can be objective, but I’m one of the greatest personifiers in the world! Your photos are so good — they make me want to run right down to the shore, instead of going to work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scientific detachment is overrated. I also talk (and apologize) to animals all the time, about what we are doing to them and how I hope that they will have a future, despite us.
      I hope you will find time to return to the refuge to spend more time with avocets, stilts and other long-legged beauties.


  5. What a lovely written tribute to this beautiful and elegant bird! And I think I know exactly what you mean by “love at first sight”.
    A few years back, I had a similar encounter with a rare ring ouzel that made a stop at our cemetery to rest and fill up before moving onward to its breeding ground up north. With its black plumage and the white crescent on the upper breast, you could say it blended in well with the rest of the priests around!
    During its stay, I was lucky to watch and photograph it picking earthworms and invertebrates from the lawn at three different occasions. Since then, in mid-April every year, I always take some extra strolls around the Church, hoping for my “love bird” to be back. But so far, no luck!
    Best wishes, Meggie


  6. One of the best things about your blog is the way you use history and science and humor and different perspectives to tell a story. Every post feels fresh—like this letter. And the “you had me at…” line made me laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked my avocet, Nirmala, even if it’s not quite as spectacular as the bird of paradised (and likely not as obsessively clean either–that bird is setting a very high standard for housekeeping 😊). Thank you for the link!

      Liked by 1 person

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