Black Oystercatcher

Haematopus bachmani
Range Map

The Black Oystercatcher is a rather shy bird. It uses its chisel-like bill to pry mollusks off rocks. They require a rocky shore to find their food, so we won’t likely see them on sandy beaches. They’re found all along the Pacific coast of North America from Baja California Mexico to the Aleutian coast of Alaska wherever they find suitable shorelines.

I read somewhere that John James Audubon wrote the first scientific description of Black Oystercatcher. I’m not aware of any trips to the west coast he may have taken, so I have to assume someone collected a specimen out west, and shipped it east where he spent his time. I’ll bet it amazed him to examine such a striking, all-black shorebird with its bright red bill, pink legs, and yellow eyes surrounded by a red ring.

Today’s science considers the Black Oystercatcher as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies).

I’ve been lucky enough to capture images of these birds up and down the California coast. I once met Black Oystercatchers at the southern limit of their expected range, halfway down the coast of Baja California (Mexico) while on a seagoing science expedition to the Revillagigedo Archipelagos.

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