Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered


American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus


enlarge +

American Oystercatcher
credit: Bear Golden Retriever/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

All Images


Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Family: Haematopodidae, Oystercatchers view all from this family

Description ADULT Has blackish head and neck and a dark brown back; underparts are white. Bill is red, legs are dull pink, and eye is yellow with a red eyering. JUVENILE Similar to adult but bill is paler and dark-tipped and back feathers have pale margins.

Dimensions Length: 17-21" (43-53 cm)

Habitat Specialty of Atlantic and Gulf coasts, found on estuaries, mudflats, and rocky shores, and often nests on sandy and shingle beaches, and dunes. Fairly common but human disturbance excludes it from many potentially suitable areas in breeding season. Resident in much of its range but northernmost populations migrate south in fall.

Observation Tips Easy to find and identify in suitable habitats.

Range New England, Southeast, Texas, Florida, Mid-Atlantic

Voice Utters a shrill, piping kweep.

Discussion Robust and stocky coastal shorebird. Black and white plumage and bright red bill make it almost unmistakable. Feeds on intertidal invertebrates, using chisel-like bill to hammer mollusks from rocks and break shells of mudflat species. Sometimes roosts in flocks outside the breeding season. Sexes are similar.