The American oystercatcher is
distinguished from other oystercatchers by its
brownish back, which contrasts with its black
head, and in having yellowish eyes surrounded by
red eye-rings. A bold white stripe in the wings
and a white rump are visible in flight. Like
other oystercatchers, it has a large red bill,
and dull pink legs. A relatively large shore
bird, it is 16-17 inches long, and weighs 14-25
ounces. Both sexes are similar in size and color.
Distribution and Habitat
This species is found along the
Atlantic coast from Massachussetts to Georgia, as
well as in isolated populations along the Gulf
Coast of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas. It
is also found along the coastlines of most
Caribbean islands, and along both coasts of
Central and South America. A true shore bird, the
American oystercatcher is almost never found too
far from a beach or marine estuary.
As its name suggests, the
American oystercatcher feeds primarily on
bivalves (oysters, clams, mussels), but does
occasionally probe for marine worms and other
food in the intertidal zone.
The nest, which is little more
than a scrape in the ground, is built well above
the high tide mark. It takes 24-28 days for the
1-4 eggs to hatch, and chicks are fed by both
parents for at least two months after hatching.
When breeding density is high,
oystercatchers will sometimes form nesting trios,
in which one male and two females share nesting
responsibilities at either one or two nests.
Since they live on the coast,
oystercatchers are very susceptible to coastal
disasters such as hurricanes and oil spills. They
are also threatened by human encroachment upon
their breeding grounds. The American
oystercatcher is, therefore, considered a
"species of high concern."
genus & species Haematopus palliatus
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