Haematopus ostralegus


Mussel Picker, Oyster Plover, Sea Pie, Sea Pilot

Status: Resident & winter visitor (from Iceland and the Faeroes) - largest numbers in Ireland between September & March

Conservation Concern
: Amber-listed as Ireland hosts internationally important numbers of Oystercatchers in winter. The European population is considered to be Secure.

Identification: Large, distinctive wader with long orange-red bill, black head, chest and upperparts and white underparts.

Call: Noisy - call is shrill, loud 'beep'. Piping call usually from the ground comprises phrases often run together and accelerating 'kip kip kip-kip-kip' and fast 'kli-klikli', and bubbling trill 'prrrr…'. Flight song, usually made in wide-circling display-flight is slower 'plee-ah plee-ah' repeated in time with wingbeats.

Diet: The main food resource includes the larger invertebrates, particularly mussels and cockles that proliferate along sandy coasts. They also occasionally feed on grasslands where they prey on tipulid larvae and earthworms. They feed by both sight (for polychaete worms) and touch (bivalve mussels).

: Nests principally on shingle beaches, dunes, salt marshes and rocky shores around the coast.

Wintering: Use all coastal habitats, and particularly favour open sandy coasts

Where to See: Dundalk Bay in County Louth, Strangford Lough in County Down, Belfast Lough in County Down, Dublin Bay in County Dublin and Lough Foyle in County Derry are among the most important wintering sites (each supporting 3,000-10,000 birds)

Monitored by: Irish Wetland Bird Survey.

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