Two oystercatchers on shore

Black oystercatchers (click to enlarge)

With their gaudy orange beaks and colourful eyes, Black oystercatchers remind me of circus clowns – so I tend to chuckle every time I see one. Nonetheless, they’re beautiful birds and I love watching them, and hearing their piercing whistles.

Although almost half of the world’s Black oystercatcher population lives here on the BC coast, we see them only infrequently, usually when we’re out kayaking. During breeding season (March through August), they inhabit low rocky shores, where they lay their eggs in small depressions in the rock, barely above the high water line. Here in the Strait of Georgia, their favourite nesting sites are on small outlying islets, away from the madding crowd of other birds and beach-walking people (not to mention unleashed dogs, which pose a real threat to eggs and hatchlings).

When the tide goes out, parents and fledglings alike feed in the intertidal zone, close to the water’s edge, eating mussels, limpets, barnacles, and – no surprise! – oysters, when they’re available. I’m guessing those long, pointy beaks come in pretty handy at meal times.

Oystercatchers surrounded by oysters

Oysters on the Menu (click to enlarge)

About Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment

Photographer focused on nature and nautical on the BC coast

8 responses »

  1. Fascinating looking animals, thanks for the info!

  2. […] Beaks at the Ready – a pair of really interesting Black oystercatcher birds are photographed and posted here to Laurie MacBride’s blog in her latest post.  These birds are not often seen here on the coast, even though their population is primarily located on the west coast, and these shots and accompanying thoughts showcase a bird that is really something to behold. […]

  3. Never seen these kinds out and about before, Laurie! Great shots, they really bring out the character of these birds!

  4. Paul Thompson says:

    Really enjoyed your two shots Laurie. And I learned a lot about these interesting birds. I ve never seen any around Gabe but hope I will.


    • Thanks so much, Paul. I’ve seen them on the rocks at Drumbeg a few times in winter, when there aren’t very many people walking there, During breeding season though, we usually see them on the outlying islets of the Flat Tops, very near Gabriola – hopefully you’ll get an opportunity to see some one of these days.

  5. Sherry Galey says:

    Wow! That first one is stunning looked at in large format. Is tis one of your new ones? Love those orange beaks and eyes. Amazing.

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