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.