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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 1:21 EDT

American Black Oystercatcher

The American Black Oystercatcher or Western Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) is a species of bird found on the shores of western North America. Its range extends from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska south to the Baja California peninsula. It is restricted in its range, never straying too far from the shore, where it prefers the rocky coastline. Though it is sometimes referred to simply as the Black Oystercatcher, this name is also used for the Blackish Oystercatcher and the African Black Oystercatcher. Its scientific name is derived by
John James Audubon from that of his friend John Bachman.

The American Black Oystercatcher is a large, entirely black bird. It has a bright red bill that is 3.5 inches long. It has a bright yellow iris and red eye-ring. The plumage varies slightly throughout its range and are darker in color further north.

This bird forages in the intertidal zone, feeding on marine invertebrates. These invertebrates include mussels, limpets and chitons. It will also take in crabs, isopods and barnacles. It searches for its food visually, often so close to the surface of the water it has to fly upward to avoid crashing into the surf. It uses its bill to dislodge food and pry shells open.

It is a territorial bird during the nesting season and will defend its area. Some pairs have been recorded staying together for many years. The nest is a small bowl or depression close to the shore in which small pebbles and shell fragments are tossed in with a sideward or backward flick of the bill. The female lays 2 to 3 eggs in the nest. These eggs are hardy and can survive being submerged by a high tide. Incubation lasts 26 – 28 days. The chicks are able to leave the nest after only one day, but will stay in the territory for a long time after fledging (40 days). They stay in the territory until the next breeding cycle. If the parents migrate, the chicks will migrate with them.

Although this species is not considered threatened, it has an estimated global population of only 8900 to 11,000 individuals.

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American Black Oystercatcher