Blackish Oystercatcher – Haematopus ater

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The Blackish Oystercatcher (Haematopus ater) is found in Argentina, Chile, the Falkland Islands and Peru, and is a vagrant to Uruguay. The Blackish Oystercatcher is a species of wader in the Haematopodidae family.

Page author: Stefan Austermühle

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Scientific name: Haematopus ater (Vieillot & Oudart, 1825)

English: Blackish Oystercatcher
Spanish: Ostrero negro, Brujillo
German: Mohren Austernfischer

 

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Description of the Blackish Oystercatcher:

Blackish plumage with wings and back being rather dark brown, long blood-red bill and white legs. Sexes are similar in appearance.

The Blackish Oystercatcher is easily overlooked on a rocky shore. Its dark colour blends into the rocks upon which it feeds, and it does not draw attention to its presence.

The Blackish oystercatchers presence however can be easily detected by its loud and distinctive warning calls.  The song of the Blackish Oystercatcher, when given in duet, consists of an exited chatter of piping whistles. Calls include piping whistles “pip”  and “peeeeyeeee”.

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Habitat of the Blackish Oystercatcher:

Its natural habitats are rocky shores. The Blackish Oystercatcher is feeding in the intertidal zone on rocky shorelines, in tidepools and on pebble beaches. Rarely it can be found on sandy beaches hunting for mole crabs.

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Reproduction of the Blackish Oystercatcher:

Nests are usually made above the high water line in a shallow hollow, amongst rock debris or in a crevice. Incubates up to three eggs.

Come to Peru and observe the Blackish Oystercatcher, click here

Become a conservation volunteer with Mundo Azul and help protect the Blackish Oystercatcher

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Population of the Blackish Oystercatcher:

The population is estimated at 22,000–120,000 mature animals with a range estimate (breeding/resident) of 190,000 km2.

Distribution of the Blackish Oystercatcher:

The Blackish Oystercatcher (Haematopus ater) is found in Argentina, Chile, the Falkland Islands and Peru, and is a vagrant to Uruguay. In Peru its distribution ranges from Paita to the border with Chile.

Join Mundo Azul and become a conservation volunteer, participating in research projects on Blackish Oystercatchers and other marine species.

You can also observe Inca terns during the coastal-marine birding tours, as well as dolphin watching tours of our associated travel operator Nature Expeditions.

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Conservation of the Blackish Oystercatcher:

The Blackish Oystercatcher is a protected species in Peru.

The 2010 IUCN Red List status is “Least Concern” for this species. As the Blackish Oystercatcher has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for “Vulnerable” under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation).

The population trend of the Blackish Oystercatcher however is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations).

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The population size of the Blackish Oystercatcher may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for “Vulnerable” under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure).

For these reasons the Blackish Oystercatcher is evaluated as Least Concern.

However given the fact that other oystercatcher species around the world are showing clearly declining population trends we are of the opinion that the IUCN evaluation for the Blackish Oystercatcher needs revision.

Within the last years specialists elaborated international conservation plans for the American Oystercatcher and the Black Oystercatcher. We believe it to be necessary to elaborate such a conservation plan for the Blackish Oystercatcher too.

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A basic element in order to review the status of the Blackish Oystercatcher are population counts which are not available for the Blackish Oystercatcher in Peru. Consecuently there are no population estimates for Peru.

Mundo Azul therefore started to collect information on the presence of Blackish Oystercatchers along the central Peruvian coast.

On a coastal transect of 14.3 km length starting from Pucusana Port going northwards a total of 22 Blackish Oystercatchers were counted. The rocky coast oystercatcher habitat within this transect makes up a total of 9.77 km = 68.3 % of the total transect. Furthermore oystercatchers were not found in rocky areas with extensions smaller than 2 km of coastline. Of the total available habitat (9.77 km) therefore only 6.83 km were used by oystercatchers (= 47.8 % of transect and 69.9 % of available habitat). Within the used habitat the average oystercatcher density was one pair of Blackish Oystercatchers every 620 meters of rocky coastline. Further research is necessary to confirm and improve this preliminary results.

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