Black Oystercatcher: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe

Black Oystercatcher facts, a key species in indicating the overall health of the rocky intertidal community.

Let's head to the Pacific coast and learn some interesting and important facts about the fascinating and conspicuous bird species also known as the Black Oystercatcher. It is a shorebird with a thick, long bill that glows orange-red, so, from a distance, it looks like it's eating a carrot. Its scientific name is Haematopus bachmani, and it belongs to the order Charadriiformes family Haematopodidae.

These North American birds spend their entire lives on the rocky marine habitats of the Pacific Ocean that provide both nesting and foraging areas. The Black O ystercatcher species are considered monogamous, as they spend time in the same nest with the same partner throughout their life and will return to the same mating grounds year after year.

Due to their identical plumage, it isn't easy to differentiate between males and females. But recent research has found that female Black Oystercatchers have full eye flecks in their irides while the black male oystercatcher have no or slight eye flecks.

If you love to read about more similar birds, also check our other articles on American oystercatcher facts and limpkin facts.

Black Oystercatcher

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Mussels, chitons, crabs, and limpets

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

2-3 eggs

How much do they weigh?

17.6-24.7 oz (500-700 gm)

How long are they?

Bill: 3.5 in (9 cm)

How tall are they?

17 in (43 cm)

What do they look like?


Skin Type


What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Rocky shorelines, sea islets


West coast of North-America





Scientific Name

Haematopus bachmani





Black Oystercatcher Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Black Oystercatcher?

Black Oystercatchers are wading North American birds. They are common shorebirds often seen patrolling along rocky beaches and tide pools. They are non-migratory and may move a little in the spring and fall; their range stretches from Alaska to Baja but is scarce along the southern California coast, where the shoreline is primarily not rocky.

What class of animal does a Black Oystercatcher belong to?

The Black Oystercatcher bird belongs to Aves class of order Charadriiformes, family Haematopodidae.

How many Black Oystercatchers are there in the world?

The Black Oystercatcher, Haematopus bachmani, is seen year-round in appropriate habitat. These birds have a global population of approximately between 10,000-12,000 individuals.

Where does a Black Oystercatcher live?

The Black Oystercatcher is found on the shorelines of the North American Pacific coast. Their range stretches from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to the Baja California peninsula.

What is a Black Oystercatcher's habitat?

The natural habitat of these birds is along marine shorelines, favoring the rocky coasts and sometimes on sandy beaches. They spend their entire lives on small offshore islands where predators are fewer with abundant mussels and other marine life. However, these species remain close to their nest and are found in all seasons.

Who do Black Oystercatchers live with?

Black Oystercatchers are most often seen in pairs or small to medium-sized flocks, but in sheltered areas, they can form larger flocks. A group of oystercatchers is collectively known as a parcel.

How long does a Black Oystercatcher live?

The Black Oystercatcher, Haematopus bachmani, can live for more than 15 years.

How do they reproduce?

The Black Oystercatcher is a territorial bird that makes its nest above the high-tide line on rocky shores built by both males and females adjacent to feeding areas. The female lays 2-3 eggs in the nest during the nesting season from April-June. Their typical nest is a small depression bowl in which small pebbles and shell fragments are tossed in with a sideward or backward flip of the bill.

Around 26–28 days, both the female and the male share the job of incubating their eggs in the nesting. The chicks will fledge at about 40 days and go with their parents to feeding areas. These fledged juveniles will nest in the territory until the next breeding season. If the parents migrate, the chicks will also migrate with them; this happens more often in the north of the range.

What is their conservation status?

The IUCN evaluated the Black oystercatcher's conservation status as Least Concern as these birds are widespread along the Pacific coast of North America. But in some areas, these birds' population is declining since the species is vulnerable to non-native predators introduced to offshore islands.

Like other shorebirds, oystercatchers are very sensitive to disturbance at nesting areas, pollution, and loss of habitat within the species' range which have caused lasting damage to the bird and need high conservation concern throughout its range.

Black Oystercatcher Fun Facts

What do Black Oystercatchers look like?

Charming Black Oystercatcher of order Charadriiformes, family Haematopodidae, is the signature bird of the rocky intertidal.

The Black Oystercatcher is a stout shorebird with a gleaming reddish bill, yellow eyes with orange rings, black plumage, and pink legs. They are black on head and neck, chocolate brown elsewhere. Their plumage is slightly varied, being darker from north to south.

How cute are they?

What's not to love about these beautiful waders who are cute with yellow eyes encircled by an orange ring, reddish-orange bill, and pink legs, all of which are strikingly set off by entirely black plumage.

How do they communicate?

Oystercatchers use both vocalization and display to communicate. When alarmed or disturbed, these birds take flight with a loud, piercing whistle easily heard above the sound of the waves. They warn their chicks with a sharp, loud call when they sense danger. As the breeding season approaches, they often fly in duets over water and shore, giving their pleasant whistling calls.

How big is a Black Oystercatcher?

The Black Oystercatcher is a large, long-lived shorebird about 17 in (43 cm) in length with a long bright orange-red bill of 3.5 in (9 cm) long. They are heavier than Willet and lighter than the African Black Oystercatcher.

How fast can a Black Oystercatcher fly?

Black Oystercatchers' exact flying speed is not known. They fly up about 15 feet to a ledge above with shallow, fluttering wings. The juvenile bird is ready for flight at about 38-40 days.

How much does a Black Oystercatcher weigh?

A Black Oystercatcher weighs around 17.6-24.7 oz (500-700 g).

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names. However, they are generally termed as male or female Black Oystercatcher.

What would you call a baby Black Oystercatcher?

Like any bird, a baby Black oystercatcher is commonly known as a chick. However, other terms are hatchling, fledgling, and juvenile.

What do they eat?

They eat various intertidal invertebrates, including mussels, limpets, chitons, crabs, barnacles, and other small creatures. Despite its name, they rarely eat oysters. They hunt especially on rising and falling tide. They hunt for food mainly at low tide, moving slowly.

When it spots a slightly open mussel shell, they quickly jab the bill inside the shell and severs the adductor muscle that closes its shell, then shakes the adductor muscle out of the shell and swallows the soft body. They also eat small isopods.

Are they dangerous?

Black Oystercatchers are never dangerous. Instead, it is humans that pose a significant threat to these beautiful species.

Would they make a good pet?

Black Oystercatchers can't be petted as they are restricted to their range and never stray far from shores.

Did you know...

The American Black Oystercatcher, the Eurasian Oystercatcher, and the Black Oystercatcher share the same genus.

Like the cuckoo, these birds are also known to practice egg dumping.

They are permanent residents of their breeding range and undergo a short-distance migration right after mating season.

Although not listed as an endangered species, they are vulnerable to habitat loss due to development on the islands and sea-level rise.

Black Oystercatcher birds don't swim, but sometimes chicks will dive underwater to avoid predators.

What sounds do Black Oystercatchers make?

They make a high-pitched whistling note in a single or rolling series, which sounds like a jumpy whee-whee.

Naming the Black Oystercatcher

An Oystercatcher is named so because they are closely related to the American species of Oystercatcher, which ate bivalves known as coon-oysters. Mark Catesby coined the name Oystercatcher in 1731. Perhaps it should have been named the black mussels-catcher because mussels are their favorite food.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover!For more relatable content, check out these Willet facts or laughing gull facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our black oystercatcher coloring pages.



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