American Oystercatcher

Hey guys, welcome back. Today’s bird is probably the easiest shorebird to identify, the American oystercatcher. This crow-sized shorebird sports a brown back, white belly, black head, and a long, thick, red bill which they use for (you guessed it) catching oysters. Because they eat exclusively saltwater mollusks, their range is restricted to the ocean shoreline and they rarely wander inland at all. I lived and birded in NYC for years, and only ever saw these guys along the Brooklyn, Queens, and NJ Atlantic coast.

They are found along the Atlantic, and Gulf coast, as well as the Pacific coast, mostly south of the US, but occasionally they will venture up to extreme southern California. Their west coast counterpart is the black oystercatcher and looks pretty much the same except it’s entirely black. The oystercatcher is the only birds in their environment that can open mollusks, like oysters. Because of this, oystercatchers often attract birds like gulls that love mussels but have a much harder time opening them. They have an interesting, and kind of all over the place migration. Some will fly from the northeast to the Gulf coast, while others sometimes don’t migrate at all.

I’ve only ever seen a few oystercatchers, so this entry is a little shorter because of it. Apologies! Next up, we stick with a bird that rarely moves far inland, the boat-tailed grackle! See you then!

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