Eurasian oystercatcher

   ›      ›   Eurasian oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus

The Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) belongs to the family of oystercatchers, Haematopodidae.

The Eurasian oystercatcher species are distributed in the Indian subcontinent, Europe, Asia, Africa and New Zealand. This oystercatcher species is the national bird of the Faroe Islands. There are four recognized subspecies of these oystercatchers.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Eurasian Oystercatcher Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Eurasian oystercatcher - Overview

  • Scientific name: Haematopus ostralegus
  • Species author: Linnaeus, 1758
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Haematopus Ostralegus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Family: Haematopodidae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Eurasian oystercatcher, Chinese: 蛎鹬, French: Huîtrier pie, German: Austernfischer, Spanish: Ostrero euroasiático, Russian: Кулик-сорока, Japanese: ミヤコドリ, Malay: Burung Kedidi Tiram
  • Other names: South Island Pied Oystercatcher, common pied oystercatcher, palaearctic oystercatcher
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, Europe, central and eastern Asia, northern Africa, New Zealand
  • Diet and feeding habits: bivalves, marine polychaetes, crabs, earthworms and insect larvae
  • IUCN status listing: Near Threatened (NT)
The Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) is closely related to pied oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris), variable oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor) and Chatham Island oystercatcher (Haematopus chathamensis).

The four recognized subspecies of Haematopus ostralegus are: Haematopus ostralegus ostralegus Linnaeus, 1758, Haematopus ostralegus longipes Buturlin, 1910, Haematopus ostralegus osculans Swinhoe, 1871 and Haematopus ostralegus finschi G. H. Martens, 1897.

Appearance, physical description and identification

The Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) is a small oystercatcher, measuring 40 to 45 cm in length and weighing 420 to 820 grams. The females are slightly larger and have longer bill.

The overall plumage of Eurasian oystercatcher is black and white. The head, neck, throat, upper back, upperwings, upper breast, scapulars, upperwing coverts and tail are black. The lower back, rump, the base of the tail, breast, belly, undertail coverts and underwing are white.

The bill of the Eurasian oystercatcher is orange red in breeding birds and is dusky at the tip in the non-breeding birds. The eye-rings have reddish orange skin. The irises are red in adults. The legs are pinkish.

The immature birds have brown back and white neck collar. The irises are reddish brown in immature birds. Their call is a repeated piping whistling, "peep" or "kleep" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Eurasian oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus
Birds of India - Image of Eurasian oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Birds of India - Photo of Eurasian oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus
Indian birds - Picture of Eurasian oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus by DAVID ILIFF

Indian birds - Image of Eurasian oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus
Birds of India - Photo of Eurasian oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus by Andreas Trepte,

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The Eurasian oystercatcher species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, western and central Europe, central and eastern Asia, Africa and New Zealand.

In India, the wintering Eurasian oystercatcher populations are distributed in the states of Gujarat, Odisha, West Bengal, Tripura and Mizoram.

The Eurasian oystercatcher nominate subspecies H. o. ostralegus are distributed in western Europe. They migrate to southern and western Africa for wintering. The subspecies H. o. finschi is distributed in New Zealand.

The Eurasian oystercatcher subspecies H. o. longipes are distributed in eastern Europe and central and western Asia. They winter in eastern Africa, Arabian peninsula and India. The subspecies H. o. osculans is distributed in the northeastern coast of Asia.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of these Eurasian oystercatcher species in New Zealand are, Pegasus Bay Coast, Manukau Harbour and Firth of Thames.

Ecosystem and habitat

These Eurasian oystercatcher species do not normally occur in forests. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 100 meters. The artificial ecosystems of these species include agricultural lands and flooded fields.

The natural ecosystems of these oystercatcher species include coastal lagoons, tide pools, estuaries, intertidal mudflats, rocky, sandy and shingle shoreline, salt marshes, freshwater lakes, rivers, streams and creeks.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these Eurasian oystercatcher species is mostly bivalves. Mussels, limpets, whelks, marine polychaetes, crabs, earthworms and insect larvae are their primary food.

The bill shape varies due to wearing. The oystercatchers with broad bill feed on the molluscs by prising them apart or hammering through the shell. The birds with worn pointed bill dig up worms.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these Eurasian oystercatcher species is from April to July. The breeding sites are located on coastal salt marshes, shores of inland lakes, reservoirs and rivers and also agricultural fields.

These Eurasian oystercatcher species are mostly monogamous. They pair up with the old mate after wintering. Sometimes the old mate is deserted for pairing up with a new partner. In some cases the male is evicted by a new dominant male from the breeding territory.

The Eurasian oystercatchers defend their breeding territory and guard the mate. The nest is a bare scrape on pebbles or gravel. The typical clutch contains 2-4 pale buff colored eggs with cryptic spotting. The parents take turns to incubate the eggs. The hatchlings have downy cryptic feathers.

Migration and movement patterns

The Eurasian oystercatcher species are generally migrant birds.

The breeding Eurasian oystercatcher populations in the north migrate southwards for wintering. The inland breeding populations move to coastal areas for wintering. The subspecies H. o. finschi breeds and winters in New Zealand.

Post breeding, the juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) is estimated to number about 1,004,000 to 1,160,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of these species is reported to be decreasing.

Throughout its range it is reported to be common to uncommon. The generation length is 13.7 years. Its distribution size is about 124,000,000

The Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) is approaching the thresholds for being Vulnerable under the range size criterion, under the population trend criterion and under the population size criterion.

Overfishing and the resultant loss of intertidal fauna and bivalve beds and hunting are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these Eurasian oystercatcher species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the oystercatcher species and has listed it as "Near Threatened". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the Eurasian oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Haematopus ostralegus
Species:H. ostralegus
Binomial name:Haematopus ostralegus
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened
Popular posts in Birds of India
Jerdon's courser Jack snipe
Brown-headed gull Pheasant-tailed jacana photos
Nicobar scops owl Andaman nightjar
White-throated needletail Oriental dwarf kingfisher
Pallas's sandgrouse Yellow-eyed pigeon
Plum-headed parakeet Whistling hawk-cuckoo
Jacobin cuckoo Eastern grass-owl
Andaman scops owl Sri Lanka frogmouth
Great eared nightjar Crested treeswift
Rock dove Rose-ringed parakeet
Chestnut-winged cuckoo Common barn-owl
Mountain scops-owl Hodgson's frogmouth
Pallid scops owl Sykes's nightjar
Edible-nest swiftlet Indian roller
Common kingfisher South polar skua
Pin-tailed sandgrouse Common wood pigeon
Blossom-headed parakeet Indian cuckoo
Oriental scops owl Large-tailed nightjar
Asian green bee-eater Malabar grey hornbill
Arctic jaeger Spotted sandgrouse
Ashy wood pigeon Red-breasted parakeet
Himalayan cuckoo Glossy swiftlet
Jerdon's nightjar Silver-backed needletail
Brown-winged kingfisher Blue-cheeked bee-eater
Jungle nightjar Violet cuckoo
Buffy fish owl Dark-rumped swift
Crested kingfisher Wreathed hornbill
Pheasant-tailed jacana Solitary snipe
Bronze-winged jacana Greater painted-snipe
Narcondam hornbill Pied kingfisher

1.Eurasian oystercatcher image source: (cropped)
Image author: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
2.Image source:,_Isle_of_Skye,_Scotland_-_Diliff.jpg (cropped)
Image author: DAVID ILIFF | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
3.Eurasian oystercatcher image source: (cropped)
Image author: Andreas Trepte, | License: CC BY-SA 2.5
Current topic in Birds of India: Eurasian oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus.
Contact State Tourism or travel agents for bird watching and wildlife tours.