Black Oystercatcher

Haematopus bachmani

  • Version: 2.0 — Published January 1, 1995
  • Brad A. Andres and Gary A. Falxa

Free Introduction Article Access

The Introduction Article is just the first of 11 articles in each species account that provide life history information for the species. The remaining articles provide detailed information regarding distribution, migration, habitat, diet, sounds, behavior, breeding, current population status and conservation. Each species account also includes a multimedia section that displays the latest photos, audio selections and videos from Macaulay Library’s extensive galleries. Written and continually updated by acknowledged experts on each species, Birds of North America accounts include a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.

A subscription is needed to access the remaining account articles and multimedia content.

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Sign In
Figure 1. Distribution of the Black Oystercatcher.

Only individuals in northern populations of this species are known to migrate. Becomes more localized throughout range during winter.

Black Oystercatcher in flight, Pt. Pinos, Monterey, California, 18 February 2007.

, Feb 18, 2007; photographer Brian L. Sullivan

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.

Recommended Citation

Andres, B. A. and G. A. Falxa (1995). Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.