American Oystercatcher

Haematopus palliatus




Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Buff gray with dark brown speckles

Number of Eggs:

1 - 4

Incubation Days:

23 - 28

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

On open sand.

Nest Material:

Sand, lined with plant material, small pebbles


Northern birds migrate



American Oystercatcher: Large shorebird with white underparts, brown upperparts, black hood, and long, bright red-orange needle-shaped bill. White wing patches are visible in flight. Yellow eyes are surrounded by orange eye-rings; legs are yellow. Sexes are similar. Juvenile resembles adult but appears scaly above and has darker bill.

Range and Habitat

American Oystercatcher: Found exclusively along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, Pacific coast of Mexico, the Baja Peninsula, and along the Gulf of California. Occasionally strays to coasts along southern California. Prefers sandy beaches, mudflats, and occasionally rocky shores where mollusk prey can be found.

Breeding and Nesting

American Oystercatcher: Monogamous solitary or loose colonial nester of sandy oceanic coasts and mudflats. Female and male build scrape nest of sand lined with vegetation and/or small pebbles. Female lays one to four buff gray eggs with dark brown speckles. Both sexes incubate for 23 to 28 days, and rear precocial young. Nestlings are down covered after hatching, leave nest soon after, and are independent by about 35 days of age.

Foraging and Feeding

American Oystercatcher: Feeds on a variety of mollusks particularly bivalves, occasionally fish. Probes into sand or chisels prey from rocks. Hammers or stabs shells with long pointed bill to pry them open.


American Oystercatcher: Very vocal particularly during breeding season. Call is a loud "wheep" or "whee-ah." Song is a loud, piping, rising then descending "wheer, wheer, we' heh' heh' heh' heh' heh, heh' h' h' h." Voice and vocalizations very similar to the Black Oystercatcher.

Similar Species

American Oystercatcher: Black Oystercatcher occurs only on the West Coast and their ranges overlap only in Baja California.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X