Oystercatcher

You can’t mistake an oystercatcher. They are distinctive and vocal birds. Both sexes of this wading bird are similar, having predominantly black plumage with a white underbelly. In flight you also see a white bar along the upper wing. It has a very distinctive red beak, red around eyelids and red legs; with a loud piping alarm call on the ground and in flight. The nest is usually a depression in stony ground.

Both adults take turns to incubate the two or three eggs, which are slightly smaller than a domestic hen’s and heavily speckled. When the oystercatcher chicks hatch they are always fed by the adults, their main food at this time is earthworms, and because the chicks do not feed themselves, usually only two chicks survive to grow to adult size.

Between April and June oystercatchers are more often seen inland in Scotland. In July the adults can be seen feeding their adult sized young on the seashore. These juveniles have black on the end of half of their beak. Oystercatchers are found on the coast throughout the rest of the year.

In Scotland oystercatchers are usually seen on rough unimproved farmland and on wetter upland grassland in summer, but are sometimes seen on road verges and roundabouts too. Otherwise they are found around coastal beaches and beside rocky coves during the rest of the year.

Oystercatchers are one of the wading birds that have declined in number in Scotland in recent BTO surveys. Even though it has increased in numbers (by 9%) on Central Highland breeding sites. Their 25 day long incubation period is a disadvantage, which is set against their ability to adapt to new and different nesting sites.