The Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) is a large wading bird in the Haematopodidae family. It is a coastal bird that is found along shorelines and estuaries throughout much of Europe and Asia, including some parts of Vietnam.

Eurasian Oystercatcher

The Eurasian Oystercatcher has a distinctive appearance, with a long, strong bill used to feed on mollusks and crustaceans, and black-and-white plumage. It is a non-migratory species and is considered to be of the least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

They eat mostly mussels and cockles on the coast, mainly worms inland

Eurasian Oystercatchers prefer soft, sandy, or muddy substrates. So they are mostly found in lagoons and large sandy estuaries. This young Eurasian Oystercatcher, at the Gamtoos River Estuary in the Eastern Cape, is in classic habitat for the species

In broad brush terms, there is a huge difference between the two subspecies; during the breeding season, ostralegus is (traditionally) on saltwater coastlines of the oceans of western Europe, and longitudes on freshwater margins of lakes and large rivers of the interior of the eastern half of Europe. This is shown on the map below. But, from about the middle of the 20th century, ostralegus started breeding inland in agricultural landscapes, even 100 km from the sea, where they feed on earthworms, rather than on mollusks

However, some populations of Eurasian Oystercatchers are declining due to habitat loss and degradation, as well as other factors such as hunting and disturbance. Conservation efforts are ongoing to protect and conserve important habitats for these birds

Tip to Identify Eurasian Oystercatcher in the Field

Common, conspicuous, and often noisy large wader (shorebird) of varied coastal habitats, especially beaches, and mudflats; also nearby fields and locally inland. Winter flocks number locally in the hundreds. Probes in mud and uses its bill to pry open shellfish (mainly mussels and cockles, not oysters). Distinctive, with boldly pied plumage, long bright orange-red bill, thick pinkish legs. In-flight shows a broad white wing stripe, white rump, and tail with a broad black tail tip.

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