Unless you’re a keen birdwatcher you might think you don’t know the avocet. But if you’re familiar with the RSPB’s logo, you actually do! The tale of the avocet is one of the UK’s best conservation stories. And if you want to catch a glimpse of this rare and beautiful wading bird, East Sussex is a great place to start.
Until the 1940s the distinctive bird, which is familiar as the logo emblem for the RSPB, was extinct in the UK. But the avocet, with its piebald plumage and upturned bill making it one of Britain’s more striking and photogenic birds, is now an established resident at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
In fact staff at the nature reserve posted exciting news on social media recently that the avocet is now the reserve’s most common breeding wader – with 50 pairs this year. So If you pay it a visit in the next few weeks you’re not only likely to catch a glimpse of this beautiful bird, but you might even be treated to the sight of some chicks.
Avocets were wiped out in Britain during the early 19th Century, partly because of loss of habitat due to reclamation of coastal marshes. But they made a spectacular return because of the Second World War. Birds scared from Continental nesting areas because of the conflict headed across the North Sea and found our wartime coastal defences, with their areas of re-flooded fields and lagoons, the perfect habitat to nest.
Thanks to the efforts of the RSPB and, as in the case at Rye Harbour, the Sussex Wildlife Trust, avocets are now thriving at Rye and in other parts of the UK. Innovative habitat management techniques, such as the creation of islands and nursery pools have led to a significant increase in numbers with an increasing resident breeding population of around 1,600 pairs. Britain also plays host to a further 7,500 visiting avocets who spend the winter here.
For more information about the amazing nature reserve at Rye Harbour and the kind of birds, as well as avocets you can see there, visit the Sussex Wildlife Trust – Rye Harbour Nature Reserve website.