Comeback of the American Oystercatcher

March 23, 2017

Oystercatcher_AMOY Rainsford 1 (2)

Photographer: Rob Sheridan
Summary Author: Rob Sheridan

The American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) is a striking coastal seabird noted for its bright, functional beak, designed to extract mollusks from intertidal sediments. New England populations are migratory, wintering along the American Gulf Coast and breeding along New England’s rocky shoreline. Before the mid-1800’s Oystercatchers were a very common spring and summer sight along the northeastern coast of the United States and Canada, but hunting, wild egg and feather collecting, and habitat encroachment lead to its near extinction.

Although they received government protection under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Oystercatcher numbers continued to decline. In the early 2000s, after the total North American population fell to fewer than 10,000 individuals, efforts to protect the species and its dwindling habitat intensified. These combined public and private habitat protection efforts have been remarkably successful, with a clear rebound in the New England population in recent years. In this image, an American Oystercatcher on Rainsford Island in Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area protects its nesting area with its distinctive shrill cry. Previously, its shrill cry was not enough to ensure survival, but the addition of legislated habitat protection seems to be working! Photo taken on June 6, 2015.

Photo Details: Camera Maker: NIKON; Camera Model: COOLPIX S9700; Focal Length: 162mm (35mm equivalent: 750mm); Digital Zoom: 1.200x; Aperture: ƒ/6.4; Exposure Time: 0.0080 s (1/125); ISO equiv: 180.