American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)

American Oystercatcher

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Haematopodidae | [latin] Haematopus palliatus | [UK] American Oystercatcher | [FR] Huitrier d’ Amerique | [DE] Braunmantel-Austernfischer | [ES] Ostrero Americana | [NL] Amerikaanse Bonte Scholekster


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Haematopus palliatus NA, LA widespread coasts
Haematopus palliatus galapagensis Galapagos Is.
Haematopus palliatus palliatus coastal se Canada, e USA to s South America and the West Indies

Physical charateristics

A very noisy, thick-set, black-headed shorebird with a dark back, white belly, large white wing and tail patches. The outstanding feature is the large straightred bill, flattened laterally. Legs pale flesh.

Listen to the sound of American Oystercatcher

[audio: Oystercatcher.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 85 cm wingspan max.: 93 cm
size min.: 43 cm size max.: 53 cm
incubation min.: 24 days incubation max.: 28 days
fledging min.: 1 days fledging max.: 1 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


North America, Latin America : widespread coasts


Coastal beaches, tidal flats. Strictly coastal, in areas with extensive sand beaches, tidal mudflats, salt marsh. Key element is presence of good food supply, such as oyster beds, clam flats.
May nest among dunes, on islands in salt marsh, or on dredge spoil islands.


Sometimes may mate for life. In courtship display, two birds walk and then run side by side, giving loud piping calls; may take off and fly together. Sometimes may form trios, with one male and two females attending one nest or two nearby nests.

Nest: Site is on ground, on marsh island or among dunes, above high tide mark. Nest (apparently built by both sexes) is shallow scrape in sand, sometimes lined with pebbles, shells.
Eggs: 1-4. Buffy gray, usually speckled with dark brown. Nests attended by two females and one male may have 5-6 eggs. Incubation is by both sexes, 24-28 days.
Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after they hatch. Both parents feed young for at least 2 months after hatching, although young attempt to forage on their own before parents stop feeding them. Age at first flight about 5 weeks.

Feeding habits

Mostly shellfish and marine worms. Feeds mostly on mussels, clams, oysters; also marine worms, sand crabs, limpets, sea urchins, jellyfish, and other small creatures of the intertidal zone.
Behavior: Often forages by walking in shallow water, searching for food by sight. Finding an oyster or mussel with its shell open, the oystercatcher quickly jabs its bill into the shell, cutting the muscles and then cleaning out c
ontents. May also take a closed mussel and hammer it open. Probes in mud for clams and other items, and pries limpets off rocks.


This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
American Oystercatcher status Least Concern


Shores of Cape Cod south to Argentina; western Mexico to Chile. Migration: Southern birds apparently permanent residents. Northern breeders move south, probably to southeastern United States, for winter.

Distribution map

American Oystercatcher distribution range map

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