American Oystercatcher

Haematopus bachmani
Range Map

We find the American Oystercatchers in North America along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in the east, and on the Pacific coast of Mexico. In South America, they live on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, south of the equator.

Oystercatchers make a living scouring rocky shorelines for mostly invertebrate prey. Mollusks comprise the greater portion of their food. Their bills are especially effective at prying univalves from the surface of the marine rocks, and from opening the shells of bivalves. The first European to report these birds to science was Mark Catesby in 1731 (read of him <Here>), when he saw one of these birds foraging on oysters; hence, the name.

Modern science calls out five subspecies of American Oystercatcher:

  • H. p. palliatus lives on the coasts of North and South America, from the Gulf of California, south to Chile, and from Massachusetts, south to Argentina, including West Indies.
  • H. p. frazari lives on the coast of Mexico from northern Baja California, sometimes to southern California, and south to Oaxaca.
  • H. p. galapagensis lives on the Galapagos Islands.
  • H. p. pitanay lives on the Pacific coast of South America from Ecuador to Chile.
  • H. p. durnfordi lives on the Atlantic coast of South America from southern Brazil south to Argentina.

On my trip to the Revillagigedo Islands (Mexico), I had my first chance to meet this bird, but I only saw one at a distance. I had better meetings with American-Black Oystercatcher hybrids, which look mostly like this bird, but with black feathers “dripping” onto the white breast. Then, in March 2020, while aboard another boat, this time looking for Whooping Cranes, I met another. During February 2021, I met these birds under better conditions at Bahia Grande near Brownsville (Texas), and again, later near Galveston.

8 Photos

Click map markers to reveal further information