The Endangered Black Oystercatcher

Black Oystercatcher by Frank Schulenburg

Black Oystercatcher by Frank Schulenburg

Black Oystercatchers do not eat oysters despite their misleading name, and they don’t even “catch” their food either.

Identifying Them:

Black Oystercatchers are large shorebirds with (9 cm) red-orange bills, pink-white legs, black heads and brown-black bodies.


Black Oystercatchers travel through the West Coast’s seacoasts and rocky islands offshore during all seasons.


These shorebirds are usually seen traveling in pairs or in little flocks. They forage for food almost always during low tide, moving slowly through the rocks. When alarmed, they fly away and make a piercing whistling sound. Because Black Oysercatchers are not only in danger of extinction but also are shorebirds that travel through the coastal waters and islands where we can not observe them as well, there are not as many facts that we know about them in comparison to other more common birds.

Nesting and Nestlings:

They nest on non-forested islands with rocky beaches, and will defend territories that surround both their nesting and feeding areas. Both male and female make the nest which is pretty easy since it’s only a small scrape in the ground. The nest is lined with a few pebbles and or shell pieces.

Black Oystercatchers form monogamous bonds, and pairs return to the same territory every year. Females lay 1-4 eggs per clutch, which both the male and the female incubate. Incubation takes about 3½ -4 weeks (about a month). Unlike most other shorebirds, parents will bring food to the young for a long time, but at the age of about five weeks, the young birds can fly and begin to forage for food by themselves, but are still provided with some food by their parents.


Black Oystercatchers eat mainly mussels, limpets, shellfish and creatures that are washed onto the shore. But how do they actually reach their food when it’s inside a shell? Well, instead of prying it open like one may think, they will chip small holes in the shells of the limpets and mussels in order to get to their prey. Black Oystercatchers do not eat oysters despite their misleading name, and they don’t even “catch” their food either. Instead they forage with their beaks to find black mussels and grab it with quick jabs.

Population Status:

“Though widespread, this species is on the 2014 State of the BirdsWatch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action.” ~The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.


About faithelise

I love learning about species of birds and want to be an Ornathologist. Writing about birds is my passion and I love every part of it!
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