British wildlife recordings
Haematopus ostralegus : Oystercatcher - Haematopodidae
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Skokholm Island, Pembrokeshire: OS Grid Reference(173500,205500)
Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus
The call of the oystercatcher, recorded on Skokholm Island, Pembrokeshire. The oystercatcher has an unmistakeable appearance, with a bright orange bill, pink-coloured legs, and black and white plumage. It is also one of the most vocal waders with a distinctive and shrill, piping 'kleep, kleep' call. Unlike its name suggests, the oystercatcher mainly feeds on shellfish such as cockles and mussels, although it will also eat lug-worms and crabs. It uses its long, powerful bill to stab and prize open the shells. When further inland in fields, it feeds mainly on worms. During the breeding season, it may perform piping displays, where in order to establish a territory, many birds will run together side by side, calling loudly. The nest is made on the ground in the open, and unusually for a wader, the young are dependent on their parents for food until they can fly. The oystercatcher traditionally breeds around the coast on shingle and rocky beaches. However, more recently, it has also started to breed inland on heathland or gravel pits. There are currently around 40,000 pairs breeding in Britain, which increases to 340,000 in winter as a result of an influx from northern Europe, when they gather in large and noisy flocks around the coast.