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Black Oystercatcher taking his Sunday bath in an Oregon Coast tidepool
Oregon Coast Notes - News

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The American Black Oystercatcher, also called Black Oystercatcher, is a conspicuous black bird found along the Oregon coast. Other birds along the Oregon coast leave the shoreline to roost, feed and/or nest but the Black Oystercatcher rarely leaves it's chosen gravel or rocky shorelines. They also tend to return to the same site every year.

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The Black Oystercatcher forages in the intertidal zone, feeding on marine invertebrates, particularly mollusks such as mussels, limpets and chitins. It's long, narrow, red bill is well adapted to prying open the tightly sealed shells of mollusks and other shellfish that constitute their main food supply. It hunts through the intertidal area, searching for food visually, often so close to the water's edge it has to fly up to avoid crashing surf. It uses its strong bill to dislodge food and pry open shells.

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The American Black Oystercatcher, Haematopus bachmani, is a large entirely black shorebird, with a long (9 cm) bright red bill and pink legs. It has a bright yellow iris and a red eye-ring The Genus name Haematopus is Greek for "blood red eyes", refers to the Old World species. The name honors John Bachman, a close friend of John James Audubon in the 19th century, who first described the bird.

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The American Black Oystercatcher is a territorial bird during the nesting season, defending a foraging and nesting area in one territory. Some pairs have been recorded staying together for many years. Nests are small bowls or depressions close to the shore in which small pebbles and shell fragments are tossed in with a sideward or backward flick of the bill.

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Around 2 to 3 eggs are laid in this nest, these are hardy and can even survive being submerged by a high tide. Incubation takes around 26-28 days. The chicks are capable of leaving the nest after one day, and will stay in the territory for a long time after fledging (40 days). The fledged juveniles will stay in the territory until the next breeding season. It ranges from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to the coast of the Baja California peninsula.
If the parents migrate, that year's chicks will migrate with them; this happens more often in the north of the range.

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Some great places to see the American Black Oystercatchers:

Ecola State Park – Near Cannon Beach
Tillamook Bay
Boiler Bay State Park – Depoe Bay
Yaquina Bay State Park – Newport
Seal Rock State Park – Seal Rock
Shore Acres State Park – Charleston
Cape Blanco State Park - Port Orford

View full size images on flickr

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