“Left to themselves, the birds are no Quakers, and the antics of courtship are both noisy and amusing.” (Dawson in Bent 1929)
The Black Oystercatcher is a conspicuous member of rocky intertidal communities along the west coast of North America. Completely dependent on marine shorelines for its food and nesting, this is a monogamous, long-lived bird. Breeding pairs establish well-defined, composite feeding and nesting territories and generally occupy the same territory year after year, often along low-sloping gravel or rocky shorelines where intertidal prey are abundant. Pairs nest just above the high-tide line and use the intertidal zone to feed themselves and provision their chicks. Diets of adults and chicks consist mainly of molluscs; principally mussels and limpets. Parental feeding of offspring extends well after chicks develop independent flight.
Pairs often abandon their territories in winter and form flocks; in areas of high mussel density, these flocks often number in the hundreds. Human-induced disturbances on islands where Black Oystercatchers nest have eliminated local populations.
The Black Oystercatcher was described by John James Audubon. The genus Haematopus is Greek (from haima or "blood" and pous or "foot"), a reference the reddish legs of some species in the genus. The specific epithet refers to Audubon's friend, the Reverend John Bachman.