Black Oystercatchers

“Left to themselves, the birds are no Quakers, and the antics of courtship are both noisy and amusing.”

—Dawson in Bent 1929

The Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) is a conspicuous member of rocky intertidal communities along the west coast of North America. Scattered unevenly from the Aleutian Islands to Baja California, with the vast majority (about 80%) in Alaska and British Columbia, Black Oystercatchers are, however, relatively rare; their global population probably number between 10,000 and 15,000 individuals. Completely dependent on marine shorelines for its food and nesting, the Black Oystercatcher is a monogamous, long-lived bird. Breeding pairs establish well-defined, composite feeding and nesting territories and generally occupy the same territory year after year, often along low-sloping gravel or rocky shorelines where intertidal prey are abundant. Pairs nest just above the high-tide line and use the intertidal zone to feed themselves and provision their chicks. Diets of adults and chicks consist mainly of molluscs; principally mussels and limpets. Parental feeding of offspring extends well after chicks develop independent flight.Pairs often abandon their territories in winter and form flocks; in areas of high mussel density, these flocks often number in the hundreds. Human- induced disturbances on islands where Black Oystercatchers nest have eliminated local populations.

The genus Haematopus is Greek for blood eye (red in Old World forms). Specific scientific name is by John J. Audubon for his friend, the Reverand John Bachman.

Brad studied Black Oystercatchers in Prince William Sound, Alaska, for his Ph.D. and remains interested in this fascinating shorebird.