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Meet the species: Oystercatchers

Simplicity can often be beautiful. The stunning contrast of black and white with the luminous blood-red beak and eyes makes the oystercatcher a sight to behold. Stocky, powerful and assured, oystercatchers can be found along rocky coasts around the world.

Their name was coined by the famous British naturalist Mark Catesby. He was the first to publish an account of the flora and fauna of North America.

Previously, they were known as sea-pies but Catesby’s believed that “oystercatchers” was a more fitting name.

This stuck.

Individuals often display site fidelity, meaning they prefer to return to the same location to breed throughout their lifetimes. This is an easy task once pairs have formed because they often remain monogamous.

In recent years, several organisations have attempted to raise awareness of the oystercatcher, chiefly due to the bird’s vulnerability. This isn’t because of their numbers; rather, it’s due to the fact that the oystercatcher’s diet heavily features cockles, which, if overexploited, could lead to population collapses, due to food shortages.

To see these incredible specimens, one only has to take a trip to any rocky coastline. With care, stealth and luck, oystercatchers can often be found wading along the shore, plunging their long, thin beaks into the sand or prising open bivalves (oysters, mussels, scallops, etc.). An interesting side note is that the genus Haematopus has twelve species, all of which are commonly called “oystercatcher.”


Alexander S. Howson

Alexander S. Howson is a naturalist and nature writer.

Along with a heavy interest in Aquatics, birds and ecology. Alexander now directs a large deal of energy attempting to re-educate the public about aquatics and promoting the conservation of a range of wildlife species.

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