African Black Oystercatcher

© Roger de la Harpe
African Black Oystercatcher.

Name

African Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini)

Family

Haematopodidae

Length

51 cm

Appearance

The adult oystercatcher is entirely black with bright red eyes surrounded by an orange ring. The wedge-like orange-tipped red bill is somewhat longer than the head and the mandibles do not meet at the tip. The sides of the bill are compressed to form thin blades at the tip. The three-toed legs are short and red.

The immature oystercatcher is a duller mottled brown-black with a white underpart and brownish-orange legs.

African Black Oystercatcher Diet

Their diet consists of mussels, limpets, polychaetes (worms), whelks and crustaceans. The powerful neck muscles and long blade shaped bill is specifically adapted to jab between the partly opened valves of mussels to get the flesh out.

African Black Oystercatcher Call

The African black oystercatcher produces a clear repeated ‘klee-weep’ sound to communicate. When in danger the alarm call is a series of sharp ‘pip pip pip’ sounds.

African Black Oystercatcher Breeding

Breeding time in South Africa is from October to March. The females lay one to four eggs in a simple shallow nest in the ground excavated in sandy soil and lined with rocks, bits of debris or a few pieces of broken shells. The eggs are stone-coloured, with blotches varying from pale purple to dark blackish brown. The eggs are incubated by both parents for about 28-30 days and the chicks are unable to fly until about 45 days old.

African Black Oystercatcher Status

The African black oystercatcher is a common resident in South Africa but is considered vulnerable.

Habitat

In South Africa, the African black oystercatcher is found living among the rocky and sandy seashore, islands and occasionally lagoons and estuaries.

Where they are found

The oystercatcher is widely distributed along the shorelines of Southern African and can be seen on rocky coasts and beaches as well as lagoons and estuaries.

Field Notes

The African black oystercatcher is fairly common along the coast of South Africa and Namibia. Unfortunately, it is considered a vulnerable species and one of the main reasons for this is that the nests are disturbed by human activity.