Oystercatchers are found on every continent except Antarctica. In South America the Falkland Islands, New Zealand and Australia one of the pair of species is pied the other black. There is still no uniform agreement on how many species of oystercatchers there are. Sibley & Monroe (1990) and Clements (1991) lists 11 species. Hockey (1996) includes the South Island pied oystercatcher, H. finschi, within the races of the Eurasian oystercatcher, H. ostralegus, but splits off the Chatham Island oystercatcher, H. chathamensis, from the variable, creating thereby an endangered species. He also gives some arguments why the sooty oystercatcher, H. fulginosus, of Australia should be split into two species, creating the spectacled oystercatcher, H. opthalmicus, and why the Galapagos Island birds, H.galapagensis, should be separated from the American oystercatcher.
However, with reference to Oliver, in New Zealand the pied oystercatcher, unlike the variable, during the breeding season resorts to the riverbeds, sometimes following their courses far into the Southern Alps. It also breeds in other stations including the top of some of the ranges in Central Otago. After the breeding season the birds congregate on the coasts where they winter, but a proportion migrate to the northern part of the North Island where they are found along sandy shores and on the intertidal sand and mud flats of harbours like the Manukau and Kaipara. At high tide they rest, together with the variable oystercatcher, on the sand and shell banks near the water’s edge.
Potts was the first to describe the nesting habits of the South Island pied oystercatcher; “the oystercatcher is one of the the wariest and most restless of our birds. It is always ready with its clamorous alarm note to wake up each echo and disturb every bird within the sound of its shrill cry. But in the breeding season it exhibits an intensity of slyness that is almost supernatural. Usually it breeds in our river–beds, on the sandy spits, without any other shelter than what may be afforded by some drift flax, grass, or stick near which it makes, or discovers a slight depression in which to deposit its eggs. These are usually three in number. The young are grey, with a dark longitudinal stripe on each side above the wing. They are very active and are led by the old birds to the margins of the water-holes or pools. On being alarmed the old bird sidles off the nest quietly, takes advantage of any broken ground that helps conceal its movements from observation, and makes a long detour. A close scrutiny will very frequently enable the observer to detect the head of the bird carefully peering out behind some vantage ground watching all proceedings.”
Other common names: —
South Island pied oystercatcher, SIPO
23 cm., 120 g., above greenish black, below and over the tail white, eye, bill and legs crimson, white band on wing and white tab above folded wing.
Where to find: —
Breeds inland on riverbeds and farmland in the South Island and migrates to coastal areas for the winter.
Youtube video —
Credit for the photograph: —
Illustration description: —
Dresser, Henry E., Birds of Europe, 1871–96.
Latham, John, A General Synopsis of Birds, 1795.
Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.
Oliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.
Page date & version: —
Thursday, 28 October, 2010; ver2009v1