Species profile

Name: the oystercatchers are a group of 11 species of wading birds that make up the family Haematopodidae.

Appearance: the different species of oystercatcher show little variation in shape or appearance. All species are either all black or black on top and white underneath. They are easily recognised by their long orange or red bills which they use for finding food.

Size: oystercatchers range from 40 to 50 centimetres in length and 70 to 90 cm in wingspan. The Eurasian oystercatcher is the smallest, weighing around 520 grams, while the sooty oystercatcher is the largest at 820 grams.

Diet: despite their name, the diet of oystercatchers varies with location. Inland species tend to feed on worms and insects, while coastal species eat a range of molluscs. The shape of their bills also varies between species, according to what they eat. Those with blade-like bill tips pry open or smash mollusc shells, and those with pointed bill tips tend to probe for worms.

Did you know: most oystercatchers are monogamous, and some pairs have been found nesting in the same site together for 20 years! Their nests are usually simple scrapes in the ground and their eggs are spotted to help them blend in with their surroundings. Unusually, some oystercatchers have been known to practice ‘egg dumping’. Similar to cuckoos, they occasionally lay their eggs in the nests of other species, leaving them to be raised by their adoptive parents.

Location: they are found on coasts worldwide apart from the polar regions and some tropical regions of Africa and South East Asia. The exceptions to this are the Eurasian, South Island, and Magellanic oystercatcher which breed inland.

Where to see Oystercatchers

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see oystercatchers in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
very low

Photo credit: patrickkavanagh under a Creative Commons licence from Flickr

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