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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote® Oystercatcher

Air Date: Week of

A black oystercatcher at water’s edge. (Photo: © Tom Grey)

The ocean battered the East Coast this past week, but for the Black Oystercatcher the seashore is a protective habitat. BirdNote’s Michael Stein reports.


CURWOOD: We've recently had a lesson in the sea's power, but as BirdNote®'s Michael Stein explains - for some birds, despite the ocean's occasional destruction, the seashore is a protective habitat.


A black oystercatcher harvesting a limpet. (Photo: © Tom Grey)

STEIN: We’re crouching on a rocky shoreline on the Pacific Coast – hearing the piping call of the Black Oystercatcher, a stocky black bird with bright red eyes and a stout, orange-red bill perfectly suited for jabbing limpets and mussels. Let’s listen again.


STEIN: A strong ebb tide is flowing, creating whirlpools and tugging at the kelp. On nearby rocks, harbor seals, looking like huge, taut sausages, have hauled out to rest. If we’re lucky today, we’ll hear some snorting!


A black oystercatcher coming in for a landing. (Photo: © Tom Grey)

STEIN: The oystercatcher is completely dependent on this marine shoreline for nesting and food, even in winter, when waves hit these rocks with awesome force. Yet what seems like an inhospitable environment to us must offer some advantages to the oystercatcher.

For one, wave-splashed mussels, the bird’s chief food, open more often, making them easier to attack and eat. For another, when the monogamous Black Oystercatcher nests on ledges just off shore, its eggs and young suffer far less predation by mammals. Now that’s something to celebrate!


SETIN: P.S. Contrary to their name, oystercatchers rarely eat oysters. I’m Michael Stein.

CURWOOD: There are pictures of Black Oystercatchers over at our web-site, loe dot org.

(Call of the Black Oystercatcher [2918] provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by A.A. Allen. Waves recorded by J.R. Storm
Producer: John Kessler. Executive Producer: Chris Peterson.All rights reserved)



More about the oystercatchers from, Bird Note®


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