Black Oystercatcher

Scientific Name:   Haematopus bachmani


Where is the best place to view Black Oystercatchers in Monterey County?

Black Oystercatchers are found in Monterey year round and can often be found in coastal areas less visited, like the rocky intertidal at Asilomar State Beach and Point Lobos State Natural Preserve.  Black Oystercatchers are quite shy but noisy birds that may be heard before they are seen. They often travel in pairs and communication with a shrill and loud whistle.

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About Black Oystercatchers

Black Oystercatchers are found on the West Coast, ranging from Alaska to Baja, California.  This large, black bird with a vibrant orange beak and pink legs prefer to forage in the intertidal region (the area between high and low tide).  Their eyes also very striking with a bright yellow eye surrounded by an orange ring. 

The Black Oystercatcher is a predatory bird, feeding primarily on mollusks (snails, mussels) along the coast.  They will also eat crabs and other small invertebrates. Oystercatchers have a very strong beak used to pry limpets (sea-snail with a flat shell) off rocks in the intertidal. Their beaks are not only strong but sharp, which helps them cut the muscle that mussels use to close their shells.  This allows the bird to eat the mussels without prying them off the rocks. Black Oystercatchers often forage in the wave zone, as mussels splashed by waves often open more often.

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Black Oystercatcher Fun Facts

  • Oystercatchers on average weigh 1.2 pounds and are 17 inches in length.
  • During breeding season, Oystercatchers will defend their nesting site and foraging area.
  • Black Oystercatchers are monogamous and use the same nesting site year after year.
  • A Black Oystercatcher chick, downy and active, is ready to leave the nest as soon as its down dries.
  • The lifespan of a Black Oystercatcher is about 15 years.
  • There is an estimated population of 4700-6000 Black Oystercatchers in the state of California.

Learn more about the black oystercatcher in our blog section.