BIRD OF THE MONTH: JULY 2006 – OYSTERCATCHER

Posted by NH Admin on Wednesday, 28th June 2006, 00:00

BIRD OF THE MONTH: JULY 2006

 

Oystercatcher    Haematopus ostralegus

 

 

Photo credit: MPF/GFDL

 

Size

Length = 40-45cm   Wingspan = 80-85cm

Physical description

 

Large wader, with a stocky build.

 

Male: head, back, breast and tail-band are black; underparts are white. Throat is white in winter and black in summer. Fairly long legs are pale pink. Long and straight bill is orange/red; red eye. In flight, white wing-bar is visible on each wing; the white rump extends to form a ‘V’ between the wings.

 

Female: very similar to male.

 

Voice

 

Call: a loud, penetrating, far-carrying ‘kleep-kleep’. Oystercatchers engage in ‘piping’ displays to establish territory: up to 30 birds run side by side, calling loudly.

 

Diet

 

Uses its long bill to probe deep into mud and sand to find molluscs, then uses the chisel-shaped tip of the bill to pound them open. Typical molluscs eaten include cockles and mussels; it seldom eats oysters, making it one of those birds which is not particularly well-named. Also eats earthworms, lugworms, insects and crustaceans.

 

Lifespan

Up to 15 years.

Habitat

 

Breeding: beaches (shingle, rocky, sandy or muddy); dunes; salt marshes; grassy islands; shingle banks of rivers; shores of lakes; riverside grassland.

Feeding: tidal flats or other areas where mud is exposed.

 

Geographic range

Breeds on almost all UK coasts.

Migration

 

British oystercatchers leave their inland breeding sites over the summer, and spend the winter on coasts and estuaries. Some birds from Iceland and Scotland fly south to winter in western Britain. Some Scandinavian birds winter on the east coast of Britain.

 

Conservation status

Secure

Related species

 

None in the UK.

 

Where can I see this bird in Northwood / Medham?

 

Along the River Medina, feeding on the mud which is revealed at low tide. Look across to the eastern bank of the Medina with a pair of binoculars and you may see oystercatchers feeding with other waders, including curlew.

 

Why is this bird worth seeing?

 

Only a few waders can be seen in Northwood or Medham, so make the most of this one. An oystercatcher is a striking bird, its bold black and white body contrasting with its long orange/red bill. This distinctive appearance makes it difficult to confuse with any other bird. Watch them feeding in the mud when the tide is out, working their way along the shoreline, plunging their powerful bills down and opening the tightly shut molluscs which they find. They are not present in large numbers but add a colourful presence to the area.

 

Binoculars needed?

Useful if you want to search for more waders across the river.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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