© Bruce McNitt/Panoramic Images (Virginia)

American Oystercatcher

The American oystercatcher is a large, noisy, thick-bodied shorebird of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Measuring 17 to 21 inches in length, this black-headed bird has a black or dark brown back, white undersides, and white wing patches and rump. Its most distinctive characteristics are its large red bill, red eye ring, and red eyes.


Common to abundant permanent resident on immediate coast of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, locally common in Tangier area of Chesapeake Bay; uncommon to rare transient and winter visitor elsewhere in the lower Chesapeake Bay and coast south of Cape Henry


In general, oystercatchers are found on beaches, mudflats and borders of salt marshes; rarely found inland but may venture to tilled grounds. Preference is for rocky and sandy seacoasts and islands


The oystercatcher feeds on exposed tidal flats and oyster beds, running about quickly, feeding on mollusks, crabs, marine worms, limpets, shrimp, clams and other marine life.

More Information

Virginia Fish & Wildlife Information Service: American Oystercatcher

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan

NatureServe Explorer: American Oystercatcher

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