Haematopus bachmani

Description

A large stocky shorebird, measuring 17–17.5 inches (43–44cm), black with a long, stout, red bill. American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus), boldly patterned in black and white, breeds in Baja California and is a casual visitor to California.

Habitat

Rocky seacoasts.

Nesting

Two or three olive-buff eggs, with brownish-black blotches, among pebbles in a shallow rocky depression or in a hollow on a beach.

Range

Resident from Aleutian Islands southward along Pacific Coast to Baja California.

Voice

A whistled wheeee-whee-whee-whee.

Discussion

The black oystercatcher is only rarely found on sandy beaches – the normal habitat of the American oystercatcher – but favours rocky coasts. It can be hard to see against a background of wet, seaweed-encrusted rocks and usually forages alone or in small groups. It feeds on a variety of marine life, specializing in creatures that cling to rocks below the high-tide line. The oystercatcher’s long beak is used to pry limpets and chitons off the rocks during low tide. In addition, they enjoy eating mussels. They very cleverly sever the abductor muscle on the back of the shellfish allowing them to extract the meat.