- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Haematopodidae
Among the mussel- and barnacle-covered rocks of the Pacific Coast lives this stout shorebird with a gleaming reddish bill, yellow eyes, and pink legs. Apart from these highlights, their dark bodies—black on the head and neck, chocolate brown elsewhere—disappear into the dark rocky background. Look for them foraging on falling tides, when exposed marine organisms are vulnerable to quick strikes from their sharp, stout bills. Oystercatchers remain paired year-round, and often fly in duets over water and shore giving their pleasant whistling calls.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Black Oystercatchers are fairly easy to find along rocky shores, jetties, and breakwaters. Look for shores that slope gently into the water or flat rocky reefs. They avoid cliffs and tall headlands, but are often seen walking directly on beds of mussels exposed by low tides. A spotting scope can be useful to appreciate these birds, which often flush if approached too closely. Also listen for their high, rising whistled calls, often given in flight with shallow, fluttering wings.
- Ostrero negro norteamericano (Spanish)
- Huîtrier de Bachman (French)
- Cool Facts
- John James Audubon wrote the first scientific description of Black Oystercatcher. The genus name Haematopus derives from the Greek for “blood-footed,” a reference to its pinkish feet. The species name bachmani honors John Bachman, an American Lutheran minister for whom Bachman’s Warbler and Bachman’s Sparrow are also named.
- Black Oystercatchers from Alaska to about Oregon are entirely black, but southward from there birds show increasing amounts of white feathers and browner (less black) abdomens. These differences between southern and northern populations result from hybridization that has happened between Black and American Oystercatchers in the southern part of the Black Oystercatcher’s range.
- The oldest recorded Black Oystercatcher was at least 6 years, 2 months old when it was recaptured and re-released during banding operations in British Columbia.