|Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)|
It's a lovely bird, its black and white plumage really make its orange eyes, beak and legs stand out. I am of course talking about Oystercatchers. It was on the way back home when we spotted these on a big patch of grass having a good hunt around for food. They were very busy as you can see from the little video which is a bit shaky as it was done on an iphone and it was quite windy.
So I did my research and I found the following facts:
- They are quite a big bird being about 43cm long with a wingspan of 83cm and weigh just over half a kilogram.
- Their name is curious as it seems they haven't been seen eating oysters and their beaks may not be strong enough to get through oyster shells.
- They do eat cockles and mussels (alive a-live oh) and they learn how to open shells from their parents. Some bash through the shells and others prise the shells apart. They also eat worms.
- Mostly they live on sandy, muddy estuaries but they have in some places started to live and breed inland.
- There are about 110,000 breeding pairs in the UK and they have an amber status. This might be as their numbers were deliberately reduced in the 1970's as fishermen thought they might eat all of the cockles and mussels.
- They live for quite a long time, usually for around 12 years but the oldest one (time to hang on to those hats again :-) was recorded at 40 years old!
- I looked for the collective nouns for them and it seems you can have a stew of Oystercatchers, or a parcel of Oystercatchers. Think I'll stick with a parcel as I don't like the idea of an Oystercatcher stew much.
- They are also known as a Sea Pie, so I wonder if they used to be eaten a lot in the past?
- They seem to have been very successful and can be found in Europe, Asia and Africa.