American Oystercatchers

The American Oystercatcher is a beautiful black, brown, and white contrasting bird with pale pink legs and a bright reddish-orange beak and eyes.  I’ve seen this bird numerous times and either did not have my camera or I missed the shot…..up until our recent visit to Ocean City, Maryland.

Not one, but on two days I lucked out on sighting and capturing them around the Isle of Wight Bay.  And now I can finally add this bird to my lifer list!   🙂

The first day early morning there was a lone adult foraging the low tide and flats.


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I could not identify whether this was a male or female as they look identical.


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True to its name, the American Oystercatcher feeds on bivalves (oysters, clams, and mussels) in addition to sea urchins, starfish, crabs, and worms.  They do love a good sand or mudflat.


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The second day I heard a loud ruckus, turned and sighted three in flight.  It was windy that day; and I struggled holding my camera still to focus on them, getting these two ‘best’ shots, albeit not so great with my cropping….but I’ll take them!


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As one turned and headed a different direction, the other two continued on their flight.


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There are two races of American Oystercatchers that breed in North America – the  eastern race along the Atlantic coast, and the western race along the Pacific coast from northwestern Baja California southward.  Another species is the Black Oystercatcher which lives along the Pacific coast north of Baja California.  Someday I’ll have to get me a shot of that one.

I love that bold color beak!


36 thoughts on “American Oystercatchers

  1. I love these guys! So hard to catch a photo in flight! Amazing, Donna.
    BTW, if you see one with a partially dark beak, that means it’s not fully mature, less than two years old.

  2. I agree that these are beautiful birds! Your photos are very good, including in flight. I was surprised how fast they fly when I saw two of them the other night.

  3. Beautiful shots, Donna – especially the ones in flight. I’ve photographed oystercatchers in other countries, including the Galapagos Islands and Iceland, but never in the US. Congrats!

  4. For all the birds you’re ‘catching’ that I’ve never seen, or even heard of, I’ve finally come up with one you haven’t caught yet – the black oystercatcher! They’re not exactly common around here, but neither are they rare. I have some shots of them, but it was back in the day before I knew much about shooting birds. They don’t begin to match your skill in shooting these moving targets. 😀 Those red beaks are pretty spectacular.

  5. I love these birds, they look so different and stand out from the crowd. We have the pied oystercatcher here in Australia and it looks almost identical to the ones in your photos so they must be closely related. Love the photos of the birds in flight.

    • Thanks Sue! I saw how similar ours are to your Pied Oystercatcher, when Ashley (aussiebirder) posted yours on his blog. We both have so many different ones and then there’s those that are so close. Amazing!

    • Thanks Ellen! Wow, I was quick to turn when I heard their squawking, I had never heard them before. Flying fast, mouths open and shutting, their darting, it was a challenging flight photo op for sure!

  6. le ostricarie le ho viste e fotografate alle isole Faroer, hanno colori bellissimi ed un volo elegante, mentre sembrano impacciate nella ricerca del cibo, spledido reportage
    un sorriso

  7. Oh my gosh! Wonderful! I wish we had them around here! I’ve never seen one! Beautiful shots, Donna!

  8. Lovely flight shots Donna. Your American Oystercatcher looks almost identical to our Pied Oystercatcher, having all the same features. We have two kinds Pied and Sooty with South Island being a race of the Pied.

  9. I enjoyed the American Oystercatchers here, Donna. They are a delightful bird to watch. There have been so many times when I was looking out over rocks or cliffs and did not see them, but then their rowdy calls erupted and I was rewarded. Great bird, great post.

  10. They are so gorgeous, especially in flight. When we lived in Alaska, we used to see Black Oystercatchers, and I enjoyed watching them a lot. I will have to bird the East Coast at some point.

  11. Thanks for posting these photos! I live in Great Lakes region, but I hope to see this bird someday if I visit the either coast. Regardless, I’m glad I stumbled upon this page, the beautiful pictures here will definitely help me learn to identify birds.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by! These are beautiful birds. I enjoy photographing the challenge of birds and have learned so much myself with identifying them. I am sure you have some beautiful birds around the Great Lakes! 🙂

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