Merlin

American Oystercatcher

Silhouette ShorebirdsShorebirds

American Oystercatcher

Haematopus palliatus
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Haematopodidae
Basic Description

A boldly patterned shorebird with red-yellow eyes and a vivid red-orange bill, American Oystercatchers survive almost exclusively on shellfish—clams, oysters, and other saltwater molluscs. Because of this specialized diet, oystercatchers live only in a narrow ecological zone of saltmarshes and barrier beaches. Along much of the Pacific Coast they are replaced by the similar but all-dark Black Oystercatcher. American Oystercatchers are numerous but sensitive to development and traffic on the beaches where they nest; they are on Partners in Flight’s Yellow Watch List.

More ID Info
image of range map for American OystercatcherRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

Look for American Oystercatchers on barrier islands and oyster beds, where these high-contrast birds can be seen a long way off. But check a tide chart first: high-tide searches can be fruitless as the birds wait out the high water at remote roosts. As the tide begins to fall, exposing their prey, they return to productive feeding grounds. The first hint to their presence is often their whistling call, which can be heard from a mile away.

Other Names
  • Ostrero Pío Americano (Spanish)
  • Huîtrier d'Amérique (French)
  • Cool Facts