A gregarious species (2) (7), the avocet breeds from April to August in large colonies of between 10 and 70 pairs (5). Sexual maturity is reached at two years old, when the avocet will find a breeding ground, often different to where it was reared. This breeding ground is where the avocet will return each year to breed (7).
The nest of the avocet consists of a scrape made in sand, mud or short vegetation on the ground (5), into which three or four eggs are laid (8). The nests within the colony are usually only one metre away from each other (2), with some recorded only 20 to 30 centimetres apart (5). The male and female avocet stay together for the breeding season (7), sharing responsibility for incubating the eggs for between 23 and 25 days (8). The chicks fledge the nest after 35 to 42 days (8). The pair bond between the male and female is only sustained for one breeding season, after which they separate and join a flock to begin migration (7).
The migration of northern populations begins between August and October, with the avocets heading south in a flock, stopping in certain areas in great numbers (5). Several thousand individuals may roost together and groups of between 5 and 30 forage collectively (5).
The diet of the avocet is primarily composed of aquatic invertebrates, such as insects, crustaceans, worms and molluscs, as well as small fish and plants (5). It usually takes food from exposed mud or from water (2), using a characteristic foraging technique that involves a sweeping motion of the beak, and it also upends in deep water to reach prey (2) (3).
A highly territorial bird, the avocet will chase away any unwelcome visitors while breeding, lunging towards them with a lowered head and neck, and may even drive away much larger birds such as the common shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) (2).