Black Oystercatcher

Before leaving Fort Flagler, I wanted to make a quick stop at a spot where I’ve gotten some of my best shots of Harlequin Ducks. I purposely parked far enough away that I wouldn’t spook the birds on the shoreline.

Leslie got out the binoculars and said that there were Harlequins, Turnstones, and two large, black birds with an orange beak. I could see the first two, but I couldn’t see any large black bird and couldn’t quite imagine what it would be.

At first I focused on the Harlequins, but as I got closer to the shoreline my attention focused on that black bird with the orange beak.

Black Oystercatcher

It didn’t take long to realize it was a Black Oystercatcher because it’s one of the few birds I hadn’t seen after four years of birding. It turned out I had seen one last Fall, but it was a distant shot of them far below me on the rocks. I never realized just how big of a bird they really were.

Perhaps their size explained why they weren’t nearly as intimidated as most shorebirds. This one looked downright indifferent.

Black Oystercatcher

This one, however, looked like it had had enough after I snapped a few shots.

Black Oystercatcher

I’m not sure I’ll ever manage to get a better shot than this one.

Black Oystercatcher

In fact, this shot we so good that it made me wonder if the color balance in my camera was off because the body definitely looked brown, not black. A little research revealed that only the head is truly black, though under most lighting conditions the brown would also seem black. I loved the orange and yellow eyes and orange beak.

It was a thrill getting this close to a bird I’ve only seen twice in 5+ years of birding. I doubt it could ever become a “favorite” like the Harlequin Ducks, but it was definitely my favorite bird of the day.

5 thoughts on “Black Oystercatcher

  1. Apparently there is also a related species in the southern and eastern United States that we don’t get here. It’s a more variegated version.

  2. I have never seen a black oystercatcher. In fact, this is the first picture I have ever seen of a black oystercatcher. An engaging fellow, dignified and self-contained. Sure of himself, as who wouldn’t be with a beak and an eye like that? Congrats to you for the photo, and to Leslie for spotting him.

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