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Pied Oystercatcher, Haematopus longirostris

Description

The Pied Oystercatcher reaches up to 510mm in length. It is black with a white breast and belly, and bright orange-red bill, eye-rings and legs. Males and females are similar in appearance and young birds are similar to the adults, but lack the intense red-orange colours and are brown rather than black.

The closely related Sooty Oystercatcher has all black plumage.

Habitat

The Pied Oystercatcher prefers mudflats, sandbanks and sandy ocean beaches. It common along rocky or shingle coastlines.

Diet

The name "oystercatcher" is a misnomer because they seldom eat oysters. Pied Oystercatchers feed mainly on bivalve molluscs, which are found by sight, or by probing their long bills in the mud. Worms, crustaceans and insects are also eaten.

Breeding

The Pied Oystercatcher breeds in pairs. A breeding territory of some 200 m is formed and is defended by both birds. 2-3 eggs are laid in a shallow scrape in the sand or among low vegetation behind the beach. Eggs are well-camouflaged, being pale brown with darker brown and black blotches and streaks. Both sexes share parenting duties.

Nest are vulnerable to disturbance from dogs, and 4WD and people traversing beaches above the hightide mark.

Call

A sharp, ringing "klepp, kleep", often heard when the bird is in flight
Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania

Distribution

The Pied Oystercatcher is found in coastal areas throughout Australia where sandy beaches or mudflats occur. It is common in Tasmania, particularly in the south.