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Species Description

American Oystercatcher

Haematopus palliatus

Species Image


Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Haematopodidae


he head, tail, and back are black; the bill is bright red-orange; the underside is white. 47 cm (18.5 in) length. While the bird is in flight, a white stripe on the wing and rump shows against the black wings and tail.

Life Cycle

The breeding season begins in early April, and lasts through July. The American Oystercatcher breeds on coastal beaches, among the rocks or dunes, and occasionally in the salt marshes. The nest is a small scrape on the ground, which is sometimes lined with broken shells and other material. The female lays 2-4 (usually 3) eggs that both adults incubate for 24-27 days. The young are precocial and are cared for by both adults for 34-37 days. The young leave the nest 1-2 days after hatching.

Natural History

The main habitat of this species is coastal areas. The American Oystercatcher finds its food by probing the sand, rocks, and other substrates in the coastal waters. The diet includes marine invertebrates, crabs, marine worms, and occasionally fish. This species is migratory.


American Oystercatcher Region Map The American Oystercatcher is found throughout the coastal United States, except in the northwest. The winter range for some of these birds extends to Central America and coastal South America.

Conservation Status

The increase in beach use by humans has reduced the range of this species. This species is fairly common in appropriate habitat and is not listed as Threatened or Endangered in the Southeast.

Similar Species

This species is similar in size to other shorebirds. The distinctive red-orange bill and black head make it very difficult to mistake an American Oystercatcher for any other species.