The Pied Oystercatcher is shy of humans and seldom allows close approach. Photo: Contributed.
The Pied Oystercatcher is shy of humans and seldom allows close approach. Photo: Contributed.

BIRD OF THE WEEK: Where to see the pied oystercatcher

If you go down to the sea today you might see a pied oystercatcher.

It is black with a white breast and belly and a bright orange-red bill, eye and legs.

Young birds are similar in appearance to the adults, but lack the intense red-orange colours and are brown rather than black.

The pied oystercatcher is shy of humans and seldom allows close approach.

They prefer mudflats, sandbanks and sandy ocean beaches and are less common along rocky or shingle coastlines.

Oystercatchers feed on bivalve molluscs (shellfish), which are prised apart with their specially adapted bills.

They use their long, strong bills to cut open the adductor muscles (that hold the two shell halves together) in order to eat the soft mollusc's body inside.

Food is found by sight, or by probing their long, chisel-shaped bills in the mud.

Young pied oystercatchers are fed by their parents using this specialised feeding technique. Worms, crustaceans and insects are also eaten.

They breed in pairs on a strip of beach about 200m metres long and will defend that territory from other birds.

They use a shallow scrape just above the high water mark and lay 2 to 3 well camouflaged eggs.

Both parents will share the duties of incubating and feeding the young chicks.

After leaving the nest the young birds are no more than a ball of fluff on long legs and follow the parents around the hard sand of the beach.

They can be seen on sandy beaches at Moore Park, Mon Repos, Bargara, and Elliott Heads but be careful when walking in the soft sand above the high tide mark between August and January when they are breeding.

Allan Briggs is the Secretary of BirdLife Capricornia, contact him with your bird questions at abriggs@irock.com.au.



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