Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus   [Linnaeus, 1758]

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Date created: 23-January-2017

Order: Charadriiformes Family: Haematopodidae
BTO Codes: OC, OYSTE EURING No: 4500
Number in Britain: 110 thousand Pairs (Summer)
Conservation Status:
European: Vulnerable
Global: Near Threatened (Details)
Status in UK: (A)  Migrant/Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
Subspecies: ostralegus recorded in Britain (of 4 subsp. in the world)
Length: 42 cm Wingspan: 83 cm Weight: M/F: 540 g    
Scientific name from: Gr.: haima=blood + pous=foot and L.: ostrea=oyster + legere=to lift
World Distribution: BREEDS: coasts of Europe & n Asia, WINTERS: south to s Africa & s Asia
Habitat: Sandy, muddy, rocky beaches
Diet: Predominantly bivalves esp cockles, mussels, tellins Macoma, earthworms when young
TitBit: Individuals specialise by either hammering their bivalve prey through the shell (these birds have short, blunt bills), or prising the two shells apart (these have longer pointed bills).  
Identification Tips:
  Images from IBC or search flickr
  Videos from IBC
  Sound from xeno-canto
Crossley ID photos

Population and Distribution

Population Trend: BirdTrends   
Regional Trends: Scotland   England   English Regions
Distribution: Atlas Mapstore    BBS Maps
British Population Size:
    Summer: 110 thousand Pairs in 2009
    Winter: 320 thousand individuals in 2004/05 - 2008/09
    First Record: Recorded in Medieval times
    Latest Survey: Musgrove, A. et al. (2013) British Birds 106:64-100
    Conservation Status: AMBER because Included on European Red List, Recent Breeding Population Decline (1981-2007), Recent Winter Population Decline (1981-2007), Recent Breeding Range Decline (1981-2010), Recent Winter Range Decline (1981-2010),
   Previous Assessments: 2009-2014 AMBER     2002-2007 AMBER     1996-2001 AMBER  
   Races of Concern: ostralegus AMBER (European Concern)
Habitat Occupancy (in the Breeding Season):
    Most frequent in: Estuaries
    Also common in: Open Shore
Relative Frequency in Each Habitat:
Migration routes: Map of foreign ringing recoveries  and summary map from Time to Fly (in pop-up windows)
European Population Size:
    Summer: 293 to 425 thousand pairs
Population Assesment from Birds in Europe
Distribution in Europe mapped by the EBCC Atlas
Listed on the Appendices/Schedules of: WBD(II*), Bern(III), Bonn(II), AEWA
Survey Results: Results from BirdTrack

Breeding and Survival

Egg Size: 57 x 40 mm Egg Weight: 46.5 g (of which 7 % is shell)
Number of Nest Records: 555
Clutch Size: 2 - 3 eggs 2.70 ± 0.69 (1 - 5) N = 3547
Incubation: 24- 27 days   by the: Male + Female
Fledging: 34 - 37days as: Precocial, downy
First Clutches Laid: 19 May (15 Apr - 9 Jun)
Number of Broods: 1
See trends in Breeding Productivity
Number Ringed: Annual Totals
Adult Survival: 0.880       
Juvenile Survival: 0.390 (to age 5 )  
Age at First Breeding: 4 years Typical Lifespan: 12 years
Maximum Age from Ringing: 40 years 1 months 2 days (set in 2010)
Read a summary of Ringing Recoveries


Ring Size: F
Wing Length Adult: 263.4 ± 7.5 Range 251 - 275 mm, N =8270
Juvenile: 258.2 ± 7.0 247 - 269 mm, N =1494
Male: 263.4 ± 6.4 253 - 274 mm, N =146
Female: 264.3 ± 7.8 251 - 278 mm, N =177
Weight Adult: 546.2 ± 83.67 Range 465.0 - 640.0 g , N =8253
Juvenile: 496.3 ± 52.04 410.0 - 580.0 g , N =1473
Male: 543.6 ± 51.10 465.0 - 632.0 g , N =147
Female: 548.6 ± 56.89 452.0 - 657.0 g , N =175
British Trust for Ornithology (2005) Ringing Scheme data

Other Names

Eurasian Oystercatcher
Gaelic: Gille-Brìghde Welsh: Pioden y Môr
Danish: Strandskade Dutch: Scholekster
Finnish: Meriharakka French: Huîtrier pie
German: Austernfischer Hungarian: Csigaforgató
Icelandic: Tjaldur Irish: Roilleach
Italian: Beccaccia di mare Norwegian: Tjeld
Polish: Ostrygojad zwyczajny Portuguese: Ostraceiro
Spanish: Ostrero Swedish: Strandskata
Local Names: Sea Pie

For More Information...

Books and Monographs:
   Goss-Custard, J.D. 1996 The oystercatcher: from individuals to populations Oxford University Press, Oxford [598.612 GOS]
   Nethersole-Thompson, D. & M. 1986 Waders, their breeding, haunts and watchers Poyser, London [598.6 NET]
   Nethersole-Thompson, D. 1988 The Oystercatcher Shire Publications, Princes Risborough [Jour: S]
Links from ConservationEvidence.com:
See Also:
Google Scholar search for scientific papers
Wikipedia entry
HBW account (subscription required)
BirdLife species page
Recent sightings and information from BirdGuides