“CATCHING THE EYE”: OYSTERCATCHERS (+ BONUS ID TIPS)


American Oystercatcher AMOY eye close-up (Todd Pover / CWFNJ)

 “CATCHING THE EYE”: OYSTERCATCHERS (+ BONUS ID TIP)

I’m focusing (ha!) on oystercatcher eyes today. Like the extraordinary one in the header image. Notice the bright orangey-red ‘orbital ring’, the egg-yolk-reminiscent eye and the pitch black iris. An eye-catching and unmistakeable feature of this handsome black and white shorebird, the American Oystercatcher.

Here’s another AMOY eye, with a different smudge of black by the iris. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that AMOY specialists are able to ID individual birds at least in part by their different eye markings. And you can see that the eye-ring smartly matches the beak into the bargain.

American Oystercatcher AMOY eye close-up (Todd Pover / CWFNJ)

This wonderful photograph of a loving AMOY pair with their precious egg safely encircled by a rocky nest was taken on LBI, NJ by Northside Jim, whose amazing photos I sometimes include. See how brightly the eyes of each bird stand out, like tiny archery targets.american-oystercatcher-t2-eggs (Northside Jim : Exit 63)

“The World is Mine Oyster”

The AMOY shot below was generously put on Wiki by Dan Pancamo. He captioned it perfectly.The world's mine oyster - American Oystercatcher AMOY (Dan Pancamo Wiki)

OYSTERCATCHER ID TIPS

A while ago, when I was choosing AMOY photographs for publication, I idly wondered what was the difference between them and Eurasian Oystercatchers (yes, yes, I hear you – apart from geographical, I mean…). At a first comparative glance, to me they looked remarkably similar in coloration and size. Assuming both species were to be discovered on the same shoreline, how best might one distinguish them? The main differences seemed to be:

  • Leg colouring differs, AMOY legs being generally pale pink as opposed to the stronger coloured legs of the EUROY (if they can be called that). However there are considerable EUROY variations (see below), from pink to orange to reddish, that are presumably seasonal. The leg colour, assuming they are visible to the watcher, is not quite a definitive identifier.
  • Both species have black heads and necks, but the AMOY’s back plumage shades to dark brown. But how distinctive would that be in low light or indifferent weather?
  • Mrs RH, looking over my shoulder, saw it at once: the eyes. If you can see the eyes, you can tell instantly what make of OY you are looking at*. Here are a some Eurasian Oystercatchers showing their own distinctively red eyes and orbital rings.

Eurasian Oystercatcher (Elis Simpson)Eurasian Oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus (Elis Simpson)Haematopus_ostralegus_-Scotland_(Snowmanradio / wiki)

As so often, I have since found that the excellent Birdorable site has nailed the differences clearly and simply. Eye colour, leg colour and – less obviously – the AMOY’s brownish back as opposed to the EUROY’s entirely black and white body. Sorted.

american-oystercatcher (Birdorable) eurasian-oystercatcher (Birdorable)

RECOMMENDED SHOREBIRD SITE WADER QUEST

*I realise there are a number of other oystercatcher species around the world, but for obvious reasons they don’t really come into consideration for present purposes…

Credits: Todd Pover / CWFNJ (1, 2); Northside Jim EXIT63 (3); Dan Pancamo (4); Elis Simpson / Wader Quest (5, 6); snowmanradio / wiki (7); Wader Quest, Birdorable, magpie pickings and Mrs RH for sharp… er… eyes

‘AMOY’ THERE! AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS ON ABACO


American Oystercatcher.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley

‘AMOY’ THERE! AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS ON ABACO

The American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus is a familiar shorebird, with the significant advantage that it cannot be mistaken for any other shore species either to look at or to hear. All those little sandpipers and plovers can be very confusing; the handsome AMOY stands out from the crowd. I am posting about this species now as a prelude to WORLD SHOREBIRDS DAY on September 6th. The link will take you to the official Facebook Page where you will find more information, including how to sign up for a pleasant day’s birding, with the chance to report your sightings.world-shorebirds-day1000

The header picture and the next 2 were taken by photographer and ace birder Tom Sheley on the Delphi Club beach. Unsurprisingly, we used one of these wonderful photographs as a full-page image in The Delphi Club Guide to THE BIRDS OF ABACO.

American Oystercatcher.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley American Oystercatcher.Delphi Club.Abaco Bahamas.Tom Sheley

Bruce Hallett, author of the essential field guide ‘Birds of the Bahamas and the TCI’ (featured in the sidebar) was a major contributor to the book. Not just with his excellent photographs, either, such as the two below. His knowledge, his patience with my queries, and his scrupulous reading of the final draft to eliminate my errors were vital to the project. American Oystercatcher.Abaco Bahamas.Bruce HallettAmerican Oystercatcher.Abaco Bahamas.Bruce Hallett163952

Here are two recordings of oystercatchers, unmistakeable call sounds that will probably be instantly familiar.

Lopez Lanus / Xeno-Canto

Krzysztof Deoniziak / Xeno-Canto

I like the rather dishevelled appearance of this AMOY from Jim Todd, fly fisherman, author of ‘The Abaco Backcountry’, and intrepid kayak explorer around the coast of Abaco.American oystercatcher Abaco (Jim Todd)

The next two photos were taken on the Delphi beach by Charlie Skinner, another contributor to the book. Below them is an ‘in-flight’ shot by Bruce Hallett.American Oystercatcher, Abaco (Charlie Skinner)American Oystercatcher, Abaco (Charlie Skinner)     American Oystercatcher.Abaco Bahamas.Bruce Hallett

This fine video from Audubon shows close-up views of the American Oystercatcher, and unleashes more of the distinctive call-sounds – an insistent wittering – of the species. [vimeo https://vimeo.com/48479131%5D

For some time, I found it difficult to distinguish American and Eurasian Oystercatchers. The markings of both species are variable according to gender, age, season and so on, but are generally very similar. Mrs RH noticed the salient difference at once – the eyes. The AMOY has bright orange eyes with red eye-rings; the EUROY’s eyes are the reverse colouring, as this example shows.Eurasian Oystercatcher. BBC

 Credits: Tom Sheley, Bruce Hallett, Jim Todd, Charlie Skinner, Xeno-Canto, Audubon, BBC
world-shorebirds-day1000