Bird of the week – Week 5 : African black oystercatcher

Bird of the week – Week 5 : African black oystercatcher
The “Red List” records the African black oystercatcher as “Near threatened”, which means that it could be threatened with extinction fairly soon if there isn’t a turnaround in its dwindling numbers. On the southern coast of Namibia and also parts of the South African coast, though, this oystercatcher is locally quite common and it presents a splendid sight as searches for food along the rocky coastline, avoiding the thundering waves with great agility.
(1)
The African black oystercatcher in a large (approximately 40 cm long) wader with totally black plumage and with bright red legs, red eyes and a strong red bill with which to open shellfish such as mussels, limpets whelks, and periwinkles that make up a large part of its diet. But strangely, they don’t often eat oysters. Although the sexes are alike in plumage, the adult females are larger than the males.
(3)
The oystercatcher is apparently monogamous and the pairs mate for life – they can live for up to 35 years – and the female lays 2 to 4 eggs in a shallow scrape in the sand on an exposed beach or rocky area during summer. The human activity on the beaches at the height of the holiday season makes it difficult for the birds to breed; the eggs and nest are not easily visible and many eggs are probably lost under the trampling feet of holidaymakers. It is this increased human presence along the coast that poses a significant threat to the survival of the species.
(4)
They are usually to be found in pairs or in small groups, and are fascinating to watch as they forage for food within the rocky intertidal zone, dodging incoming waves with an uncanny sense of timing. Often the breaking waves seem to be directly overhead before the birds react, but they never seem to get caught and dragged off the rocks.
(2)
They call while on shore or while flying, a loud klee-weep, klee-weep and several birds may call together.
The binomial for the African black oystercatcher is Haematopus moquini.  Haematopus being from the Greek words for “blood” and “foot”, referring to the colour of the legs and feet, and moquini after Horace Benedict Alfred Moquin-Tandon (1804-1863), a French collector, ornithologist and author.

The “Red List” records the African black oystercatcher as “Near threatened”, which means that it could be threatened with extinction fairly soon if there isn’t a turnaround in its dwindling numbers. On the southern coast of Namibia and also parts of the South African coast, though, this oystercatcher is locally quite common and it presents a splendid sight as it searches for food along the rocky coastline, avoiding the thundering waves with great agility.

African black oystercatcher

The African black oystercatcher is a large (approximately 40 cm long) wader with totally black plumage and with bright red legs, red eyes and a strong red bill with which to open shellfish such as mussels, limpets whelks, and periwinkles that make up a large part of its diet. But strangely, they don’t often eat oysters. Although the sexes are alike in plumage, the adult females are larger than the males.

African black oystercatcher

The oystercatcher is apparently monogamous and the pairs mate for life – they can live for up to 35 years – and the female lays 2 to 4 eggs in a shallow scrape in the sand on an exposed beach or rocky area during summer. The human activity on the beaches at the height of the holiday season makes it difficult for the birds to breed; the eggs and nest are not easily visible and many eggs are probably lost under the trampling feet of holidaymakers. It is this increased human presence along the coast that poses a significant threat to the survival of the species.

African black oystercatcher

They are usually to be found in pairs or in small groups, and are fascinating to watch as they forage for food within the rocky intertidal zone, dodging incoming waves with an uncanny sense of timing. Often the breaking waves seem to be directly overhead before the birds react, but they never seem to get caught and dragged off the rocks.

African black oystercatcher

They call while on shore or while flying, a loud klee-weep, klee-weep and several birds may call together.

The binomial for the African black oystercatcher is Haematopus moquini.  Haematopus being from the Greek words for “blood” and “foot”, referring to the colour of the legs and feet, and moquini after Horace Benedict Alfred Moquin-Tandon (1804-1863), a French collector, ornithologist and author.

3 thoughts on “Bird of the week – Week 5 : African black oystercatcher

  1. Adel Groenewald

    do you know of any organisations that collect money that go toward conserving the oyster catcher in south africa?

    Reply
    1. Mike

      Hi Adel,

      The two people (Rob and Jane Wilkinson) who may be able to answer your question are somewhere in the bush in Botswana on another Wilkinson Adventure. I’ll be sure to pass on your question to them when I am next in contact with them.

      Regards,

      Mick (admin).

      Reply
    2. Jane

      Adel, Doug Lowenthal of the Ornithology Dept at UCT runs a programme for these birds. Perhaps you could contact him if you feel you want to assist.

      Reply

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