Saturday, April 5, 2008

American Oyster-catcher

The American Oyster-catcher, a really cool bird not often seen.

Haemateopus palliatus.

Click on photo to have a close encounter
According to Birds of America (Pearson & Burroughs), the Oyster-catcher is essentially a maritime bird.

They are found (except by accident) only on the ocean fronts, where they get the principle part of their diet: oysters, clams, mussels, and various shell fish. They open the shells with the handy oyster knife which they carry (the bright-red bill). They will also feed on marine worms and insects. Locally in many places, they are called “Sea-Crows” by fishermen, which may be an apt title, although the call is melodious and flute-like rather than like the raucous call of the true Crow.

The birds have stout legs and strong feet from which the hind toe is missing. The plumage is black on the head and upper part, white underneath with a brownish back.

We photographed this bird in October. We watched him/her walk with a slow dignified stride before we snapped the photo. They can run with considerable speed and usually only fly short distances if disturbed. This one is a juvenile, as determined by beak color (not fully red yet).

Females usually lay only 2 to 3 cream-colored eggs blotched with brown, in a slight depression in the sand. Sometimes the nest will be in a pile of shell castings on a small area of sand, or on shell bars with bunches of seaweed which is not covered at high tide. The eggs are very hard to find as they blend right in with their surroundings. They typically nest from April to June with the female doing most of the incubation at night or on cool cloudy days. The nest will typically be left uncovered during the day to allow the sun and warm sand to provide incubation.

The similar Black Oyster-catcher is usually only found from Alaska and the Aleutians to central and sometimes southern California, whereas the American Oyster-catcher resides on the southern and eastern coasts of the U.S. casual to New Brunswick.
To see the Black Oyster-catcher, click the above link and scroll down.

Story by Troy - Photo by Martha


The Texican said...

Very Interesting. I'll bet we have a few of those in my area. I'll be on the lookout.

Sandpiper said...

Beautiful picture! I don't see them that often here, so when I do, it's a real treat!

Island Rambles Blog said...

I love this oystercatcher picture ...ours are the all black boring ones...wish I could see this one...I like the write ups here as I always learn a lot at this blog...your blog is so full of good pictures and articles it is like a feast of good blogging have done a lot of good work on your blog and it shows too.Good Job both of you.

David said...

You've done a great job with the composition here, those three bits of seaweed are in just the right places to draw your eye around between them and the bird in a comfortable manner.


David Webb: Pictures of Nature

Marie said...

Great shot! We have lot of these birds during the summer, they fly south in the winter. We call them "Tjeld".

John said...

I had some great looks at oystercatchers yesterday. This was one of the species that helped get me into birding.

AphotoAday said...

Very interesting -- the Oyster Catcher...

I'm just going on memory here (although I do have a few photos tucked away someplace), but the ones we have around here must the the Black Oyster Catcher -- they beaks are solid orange, and I think their bodies are completely black. I've seen them on the central coast of California, especially at Point Lobos, between Carmel and Big Sur. They seem to hang out in pairs a lot and don't seem terribly afraid of humans.

Marvin said...

Great photo of the oyster-catcher.

(Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog -- and for adding it to your blogroll. Now that I'm back home, I've done the same. I'm looking forward to seeing more of y'all's great photos and posts from my native state.)

Kathiesbirds said...

Thanks for directing me here. This is a bird I need to add to my life list. Larry of the Brownstone Birding Blog just photgraphed one in CT this past weekend. Enlarging the photo gives such a better view. I love the reflection of the bird in the wet sand.