Oystercatchers on the Beach

American Oystercatcher Photo by Steve Nanz

The American oystercatcher is among the top ten priority species of conservation concern for New York City Audubon. This large, conspicuous beach-nesting shorebird eats mainly shellfish and can be seen walking or running along the beach. The Atlantic Coast population has decreased dramatically and New York City Audubon is part of a larger regional effort to assess oystercatcher productivity in Jamaica Bay and along the Rockaway Peninsula. Nesting is in full swing. On Friday I accompanied NYC Audubon field technician Emilio Toban as he monitored the beaches at Breezy Point for new nests or hatched eggs. One of the challenges in working with oystercatchers – they share their nesting beaches with endangered piping plovers. Aggressive encounters have been reported, and our partners from Pace and Columbia Universities are part of the team, studying the impact of these behaviors by observing both species.

- Susan Elbin

American Oystercatcher


  1. Regina McCarthy says:

    Thanks for posting this. What is meant by ‘aggressive encounters’. I love this species and welcomed it’s increase in Jamaica Bay. I’d hate to see it threaten the piping plover.

    • Susan says:

      There have been reports of American Oystercatchers eating Piping Plover eggs and chasing young chicks. The two species nest in close proximity to each other. Interestingly, the the oystercatchers set up their territories and start nesting before the plovers arrive. PACE University is conducting a focused study on this, looking at the extent of these types of encounters. NYC Audubon is working with a student from Columbia University to document human disturbance impacts on oystercatcher nest success. If you observe any interactions – positive or negative – please let us know!
      Thanks for your comments. -Susan

      • Everardo says:

        Arthur, Thank you I appreciate the kind words. Last year we were there toeeghtr at the end of May and saw mating Common Terns, Least Terns on eggs and Oystercatcher chicks. I don’t remember if we saw a few Common Tern chicks, hmmm.. I know at my workshop last year in June we had them. Hey didn’t you go to that one? I will have to check through my images.

        • Jair says:

          Ken and I had an awesome time on Saturday. You did a great job orzinigang the group and explaining what we were looking for and what to do to get good shots. If only the wind and temperature had cooporated .and the birds but it was a fun day I got some decent pictures only 2 good bird pictures, but a bunch of other neat shots. I did manage to get one good Oyster Catcher shot (the one in my Flickr page) even got the catch light Again Kudos to the workshop hope you iwll do others.

  2. Brandon Keim says:

    There are quite a few around the shoreline reached when one walks from the North Channel bridge parking lot to the area across from JFK … no hatchlings yet, though. Do you know when they’d come out?

    • Susan says:

      Sorry for the delay in responding to your comment! NYC does have a nice population of adult American Oystercatchers! You should be seeing oystercatcher chicks now. Just keep in mind — because of the high rate of human disturbance and predator access, there is a low rate of nest success. So….all those pairs and nests you see will not produce chicks.

      • Arbi says:

        Live off the coast of Fl out of Daytona area. Had wrens, cardinals, buaejlys, and all types of little birds. They were emptying the feeders almost in two days. More squirrels started showing up but have squirrel proof feeders. Then weather got hot and got up the next morning after it hit 90 and all the little ones were gone and feeders stay absolutely full now. We did trim the trees but that only happened a couple times. I wonder if that caused them to leave as we were in their territory. I just have not seen any after so many darting in and out of the little holes behind squirrel proof wire and now no birds running in and out filling all ports of the tubes until one left and another could get into the perch to stand and eat.

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