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American Oystercatcher

Haematopus palliatus

FLORIDA SPECIES OF SPECIAL CONCERN

TAXONOMY

ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES, FAMILY: HAEMATOPODIDAE
American Oystercatchers are found in North to South America, and five subspecies are recognized across their range. H.p.palliatus is the subspecies found in Florida and along other parts of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

DESCRIPTION

Size.
Large stocky shorebird (Length 40-44cm; Wingspan 73-81cm; Mass 400-700g).
Appearance.
Distinctive bold pattern; black head with browner back, tail, and shoulders; eyes typically bright yellow with a red orbital ring; bill is long, heavy, and bright red; legs stout and pink; undersite white; bold white stripe in wing (secondaries and part of the primaries) clearly visible in flight.
Sex differences.
American Oystercatchers are sexually monomorphic (males and females are identical in appearance).
Age differences.
Juveniles have black bill tips and dark eyes; bill and orbital-ring take four years to reach a clear bright orange.
Similar Species.
Difficult to confuse with any other shorebird. Black Skimmers have a similar color pattern, but the differences in structure are marked.

RANGE

Entire range.
North and South America. See range map for North America or Western Hemisphere.
Breeding range.
In U.S., breeds along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Also a permanent resident of marine coastlines throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America.
Migration.
Largely resident in most of its range except for portions of the northernmost breeding populations, from Massachusetts to South Carolina, which appear to migrate to the southeastern United States during the winter. Current banding and resighting efforts are shedding new light on these patterns (learn more).
Non-breeding range.
See above.
Florida.
Birds breed from March to July in scattered localities along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts (See map of recent nest records). Winter birds are more widely distributed, and include migrants from further North (See map of recent fall-winter-spring observations). Data collected since 2006-2007 establishes that Dixie, Levy and Citrus counties host significant numbers of migrant birds from Atlantic coast range.

STATUS and CONSERVATION

In general.
Local and uncommon in Florida.
Threats.
Breeding locations are few and localized making populations in FL susceptible to major catastrophes. Habitat loss and disturbance associated with coastal development and recreational activities continue to pose a serious threat to the persistence of American Oystercatchers in Florida.
Management.
Efforts need to focus on protecting breeding and feeding habitat and, in some cases, on predator control. Nesting areas are best protected by excluding humans. In areas where high tides consistently result in nest loss, artificial nest platforms may be a potential management tool.
Status.
U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan- Species of High Concern; Species of Special Concern in Florida; IUCN- Least Concern.

LINKS

All About Birds (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)- American Oystercatcher
American Oystercatcher Working Group
Florida Breeding Bird Atlas- American Oystercatcher Species Account
Reporting Color-banded American Oystercatchers
Internet Bird Collection- several videos of American Oystercatchers in action
Wikipedia- American Oystercatcher
VIREO Visual Resources- many photos of American Oystercatchers
FWC Wildlife Viewing- Species Spotlight and maps of where to view
BirdLife International Fact Sheet- American Oystercatcher


FWC Audubon UFWS