The oystercatcher is a large, stocky, black and white wading bird. It has a long, orange-red bill and reddish-pink legs. In flight, it shows a wide white wing-stripe, a black tail, and a white rump that extends as a 'V' between the wings. Because it eats cockles, the population is vulnerable if cockle beds are overexploited. Breeds on almost all UK coasts; over the last 50 years, more birds have started breeding inland. Most UK birds spend the winter on the coast; where they are joined on the east coast by birds from Norway.
Key ID Features
Stocky, mainly coastal or estuary wader with strikingly contrasting black upper parts and breast and white under parts.
Medium length, sturdy pointed orange-red bill and red eye.
Short pale pink legs.
Broad white wing bars and long white 'v' on back and rump visible in flight.
Scientific name: Haematopus ostralegus
Family: Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)
Where to see them:
Possible to see on almost all coasts of the UK. Look for breeding birds in summer at RSPB coastal reserves. In winter, you can see large numbers on major estuaries, such as Morecambe Bay.
Seen in UK:
All year round.
What they eat
Mussels and cockles on the coast; mainly worms inland.
Text (c) RSPB, used with permission
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Photographer: Tim Tapley