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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Kari Pihlaviita, Jouko Lehmuskallio, M. & W. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Oystercatcher

Haematopus ostralegus

  • Name also: Eurasian Oystercatcher, Common Pied Oystercatcher
  • Family: Oystercatchers – Haematopodidae
  • Appearance: Noisy and conspicuous large black and white waders found on seashores and islands.
  • Size: Length 39–44 cm, wingspan 72–83 cm, weight 380–520 g.
  • Nest: In a depression among rocks or gravel, made with very little nest material (gravel, bark fragments etc).
  • Breeding: 3 eggs laid April–May, incubated by both parents for 27 days. Fledglings leave the nest soon after hatching and quickly learn to find food. They can fly within 34–37 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds near seashores and occasionally inland by large lakes. May also be seen today in urban areas feeding on grassy lawns. Finnish breeding population estimated at 4,000–4.500 pairs.
  • Migration: By day. Birds start to fly south from June, with locally breeding birds’ migrating numbers peaking in early August. Finnish breeders return in April, while birds returning to breed in Arctic regions fly through in May. Winters along coasts in Western Europe.
  • Diet: Invertebrates including shellfish, sandworms (earthworms on lawns) and insects, found on shores or on the sea bed in shallow water. (The species’ scientific name means blood-legged oyster-picker).
  • Calls: Very noisy. Warning call a shrill whistle “plit plit plee”.
  • Endangerment: In Finland Least concern, protected. European red list status Vulnerable, globally Near threatened.

Oystercatchers have black colouring on their heads, chests, backs and tail tips. Their bellies, rumps, tail bases are white, and they also have broad white wing stripes. In their winter plumage they have broad white collar bands. Their long, straight beaks are bright red, with a tip that is slightly flattened as an excellent adaptation for prizing open shells. Juveniles resemble adults though their darker body parts are brownish black.

Oystercatchers’ legs are bright dark pink (adults) or greyish pink (juveniles). Their bills are bright red with yellowish colouring at the tip (adults) or yellowish orange with a dark tip (juveniles). Their irises are red (adults) or brown (juveniles). Their flight is characteristically rapid and direct.

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