The oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) is well known as a coastal species (4), and is easily recognised by virtue of its large size and combination of black and white plumage, long, bright orange-red bill and pink legs (2). In flight there is a prominent white wing-bar, and during winter a white 'chin-strap' develops (2). The sexes are similar in appearance, although males often have relatively shorter, thicker bills (2). Juveniles have brownish-black upperparts, grey legs, and a dark tip to the bill (2). Calls include a loud 'pic-pic-pic' (5), and a high 'peep' (2).
The strong, flattened bill allows the oystercatcher to prize open cockles, mussels and other bivalves that other waders cannot exploit. They also feed on worms, limpets and crabs (4).
The nest is a scrape on the ground, after mid-April between two and four (but usually three) cream eggs, spotted with brown are laid (5). Both sexes share the duty of incubation, which takes 24 to 27 days (5). The young are very well camouflaged, and they leave the nest after about a day. Both the male and the female care for the young until they become independent at between 34 and 37 days (5). Oystercatcher pairs usually produce just one brood a year, although if the brood is lost for some reason, a replacement brood may be produced (5).
Originally, the oystercatcher was mainly a coastal species in Britain; it is still found around the coastline, but between 1974 and 1986 it increasingly colonised inland waterways, particularly in Scotland and northern England (6). During winter, resident birds are joined by immigrants from Iceland, Norway and the Faeroe Islands (4). It also occurs around the coasts of northern and western Europe, patchily around the Mediterranean and parts of the coast of eastern Asia, as well as inland from the Caspian Sea towards central Asia (5).
The oystercatcher is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). It is a widespread and common species (2). Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Amber List (medium conservation concern) (3)
No specific conservation action has been targeted at the oystercatcher, but it will have benefited from conservation measures aimed at a range of wintering wader species, particularly the creation and management of coastal nature reserves (7).
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