Cornish Biodiversity Network  -  Supporting Wildlife Recording

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Cornish Red Data (2009)

The descriptive text, below the map, is from the Cornish Red Data Book (2009). The map on this web page depicts the organisms distribution and shows the records made pre-2000 and those made since.

Recurvirostra avosetta - Avocet

Range & Status

Europe, Africa and Asia; in Britain and Ireland it is at the northern limit of both breeding and winter range. After long extinction as breeding bird, regular nesting began again in 1947. The British population is still expanding on nature reserves in eastern England, with 448 pairs in 1991 and 877 pairs in 2000. The increasing numbers wintering have now attained levels of International Importance, with over 2000 in 1992/93 winter.

Regional Distribution

Cornwall: winter visitor to the Tamar estuary (Nationally Important, supporting 10% of B. & I. total); first two noted in 1948, numbers increasing gradually, exceeding 100 in January 1987 but soon more than doubling that with a peak of 260 in February 1994 (Reay, 1988b). Up to 130 intermittently on nearby Lynher are considered as part of this population. Very scarce elsewhere in Cornwall, but annual at Ruan Lanihorne. Isles of Scilly: vagrant.

Habitat & Ecology

Winters along middle reaches of the estuary, feeding in closely packed flocks, roosting at edges of saltings.


Electricity pylons cross the estuary through a regular feeding area and two or three Avocets have been found dead near these wires; however, this danger is considered minimal. Increasing winter boating activity could become a future problem.


The Tamar and Lynher estuaries are a SSSI and have been proposed for SPA status; much of the area utilised by Avocets is a Cornwall Wildlife Trust reserve. Protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Annexe 1 of the European Union Conservation of Wild Birds Directive. Listed (long list) as a globally threatened/declining species (BSGR, 1995).


I.J. Bennallick, S. Board, C.N. French, P.A. Gainey, C. Neil, R. Parslow, A. Spalding and P.E. Tompsett. eds. 2009. Red Data Book for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 2nd Edition.Croceago Press.

The Cornish Red Data Book Project was led by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Federation for Biological Recorders (CISFBR). The full text and species accounts (minus the maps) are available on the CISFBR website.

Cornish Biodiversity Network. 2017.