Belongs to: breeding waders

Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

BoCC Amber list

Best time to see: all year

Key facts

Unmistakable black-and-white wader with long red bill and noisy piping call

Nests mainly along the coast in Essex, on shingle beaches, higher saltmarsh and seawalls; also inland

Move to the coast in winter where they are joined by birds from Norway


Black-and-white upperparts with pink legs and long orange bill; 42 cm

Often seen feeding along shoreline where they may gather in large flocks; flies strongly with loud piping calls 

Eats molluscs and worms; chisel-shaped bill is designed to open shellfish, and especially mussels.


Before nesting put on a 'piping performance', in which groups of birds form circles and run about 'piping'

Nest is a lined scrape on the ground; one brood of 3 buff eggs blotched black, mid-April–May

During nesting, the off-duty parent stands guard to gives the alarm call when an intruder arrives

© Alan Williams

© Gerald Downey