This week I want to showcase two of Australia’s Oystercatchers, both classified as endangered in the state of NSW but more plentiful in Tasmania. The Australian Pied Oystercatcher and the Sooty Oystercatcher. They are endangered because their beach nesting places are being encroached upon by humans and especially the craze in recent years to drive 4WD vehicles on beaches in National Parks and sensitive bird nesting areas. Sadly there is little or no policing of the laws that protect our birds there.
The South Island Pied Oystercatcher occasionally found on our east coast is a vagrant from New Zealand, which looks identical to the Australian Pied until it is studied while in flight.
The Australian Pied Oystercatcher is found along the coastline of much of Australia mainland and Tasmania. It is classified as threatened in Victoria though secure in most other states. The Oystercatcher name comes from the use of their extremely strong and powerful beak action, which they use like a jackhammer to pry open small shell fish and oysters, which make up much of their diet, including other crustaceans. These birds, are usually found in pairs, as is the Sooty.
The immature Pied has dark eyes, dark legs and a black tipped beak. Click on photo to enlarge it.
The Sooty Oystercatcher is found around the coastline of Australia, and in greatest number in Tasmania, and both Sooty and Pied Oystercatchers are often found together or nearby, sometimes sparking aggression between the two.
There are two distinct races (subspecies) situated in the northern half of the continent and the southern half. The one pictured here is the southern race fuliginosus which we see locally.
The Sooty likewise has an almost identical beak to the Pied being used in a similar fashion, as you can see in the footage below.
These birds, similar to the Pied, are found on ocean reefs at low tide and coastal beaches, and seldom inland unless it is a ocean inlet.
This reef at Botany Bay National Park, is the place where Captain Cook landed in 1770 to take on fresh water from a stream nearby. Maybe he saw these Australian Pied Oystercatchers working the reef as I have seen them here frequently at low tide.
Beside one of the reefs we visited was this field of seashells by the seashore. So many both whole and broken, represent the homes of thousands of small creatures either eaten by such as the Oystercatcher or other shorebirds. They make a pretty picture together.
Have a wonderful week birding. If you have not done so yet check out my website aussiebirder.com for more birding info and interesting photos.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? ” – Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)
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