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Order Waders, Gulls, Skuas/Charadriiformes, Family Oystercatchers/Haematopodidae

Eurasian Oystercatcher/Haematopus ostralegus - Adult

L 39-44 cm (incl. bill 6½-9), WS 72-83 cm. Breeds on open, flat coasts. Commonly feeds on tidal flats or fields and other open ground (generally no more than c. 20 km from sea, but locally much further inland); roosts communally in winter. Food mainly cockles, mussels, worms; also crustaceans, insects. Vertically flattened, blade-like blunt-tipped bill specially adapted for hammering and opening cockles, mussels, etc. Nest is bare scrape on ground, preferring pebbly patches, sand or rocky ground to grassy meadows.
IDENTIFICATION: Large, compact and deep-chested. Striking combination of long and straight orange-red bill and black and white plumage. Broad white wing-bar conspicuous in flight. Flight direct with quick wingbeats, somewhat recalling a duck. - Adult summer: Orbital ring orange-red, eye deep red. male has on average shorter, thicker bill than female; sometimes male also has brighter red base of bill, but sexing of single birds usually not possible. Legs pink. - Adult winter: Like adult summer, but has obvious white ‘chinstrap’. - Juvenile: Dull brownish-black above, not black; extensive black tip to pale orange bill; legs greyish. - 1st-year: Distinguished from adult by narrower black tail-band; extensively darktipped bill; brownish upperparts; dull flesh legs; white chinstrap usually retained in 1st summer; wings (retained from juv.) much faded, brownish by 1st summer; orbital ring dull yellow-orange and eye brownish-red. Some older birds may retain dark bill-tip, so 1st-year safely ageable only by notation of full range of features.
VOICE: Noisy. Common flight-call (also when perched) is distinctive farcarrying, shrill ‘peep’ or ‘k-peep!’. So-called piping call (usually from ground, open bill pointing down, often maintained by pair or dense little group) is of similar shrill quality; typical phrases, often run together, are accelerating ‘kip kip kip-kip-kip-…’ running into a fast ‘kliklikli…’, and a distinctive bubbling trill, ‘prrrrrrrrr…’. Flight-song (by male, a+o, in widecircling display-flight, typically with slow-motion, deep wingbeats) contains slower ‘plee-ah plee-ah plee-ah …’ in time with wingbeats.

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