Eurasian oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus) are waders, also known as shorebirds. They are known for there bright red legs and bills, as well as their noisy nature. The species uses contact calls to stay connected to other members of the group and several complex calls as part of displays, such as aggressive and territorial displays. Calls also help sustain hierarchies within a population. Despite their name, Eurasian oystercatchers do not consume many oysters, but they do use their strong bills to open several other bivalves, such as mussels—a feat for a wader. They also eat worms, crabs, and limpets. Eurasian oystercatchers are categorized as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List. The species has a large range and population size, but the largest population has been rapidly declining since the 1990s. Researchers are unsure of whether the decline may be due to long-term population patterns or if it is a more serious issue. The main threat to Eurasian oystercatchers is overfishing benthic shellfish—their main source of food. The species is also threatened by habitat degradation, pollution, human disturbance, and development. Organizations, such as BirdLife International, recommend better management of shellfish fishing at wintering and stop-over habitats, protecting key habitat, and limiting human disturbance to help keep this species from becoming endangered.
Photo and haiku: Samantha Oester