Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus

A common wader, the oystercatcher is very noisy with a loud ‘peep-ing’ call. They are unmistakeabl, with : black and white feathers, a long red bill and pinky-red legs.


On the coast, oystercatchers specialise in eating shellfish, particularly cockles and mussels, which they either prise or hammer open with their strong, flattened bills. Originally a coastal species, oystercatchers have moved further inland over the last 50 years to breed on waterways and lakes. Most UK birds still spend their winters by the sea, however, and are joined by birds from Norway and Iceland.


  • Length: 40-45cm
  • Wingspan: 83cm
  • Weight: 540g
  • Average Lifespan: 12 years


Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.


Widespread around the coast and also nest inland on gravel pits and large rivers.

When to see

January – December


  • There are twelve species of oystercatcher in the world, all of which look very similar, being either black and white or plain black, with a red bill and pinky legs. One further species of oystercatcher became extinct in the 20th century and some of those still surviving are now endangered or threatened.

Common name


Species name

Haematopus ostralegus

IUCN Red List status

Near threatened

When to see in Scotland

January – December

Where to see in Scotland

Scottish Wildlife Trust reserves such as Montrose Basin or Isle of Eigg.

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