The Oystercatcher is one of the largest waders in the region. It is 40-45 cm (16-18 in) long (bill 8-9 cm) with a wing-span 80-85 cm. They are plover-like birds, with black and white plumage, red legs and strong broad red bills. It is unmistakable in flight, with white patches on the wings and tail, otherwise black upperparts, and white underparts. Young birds are more brown, have a white neck collar and a duller bill.

Habitat and Distribution

This is a migratory species over most of its range. The European birds breed mainly in northern Europe, but in winter they can be found in north Africa and southern parts of Europe. Although the species is present all year in Ireland, Great Britain and the adjacent European coasts, there is still migratory movement: the large flocks that are found in the estuaries of south-west England in winter mainly breed in northern England or Scotland.


They use the broad bill for smashing or prising open molluscs such as mussels or for finding earthworms. Despite its name, oysters do not form a large part of its diet.


The nest is a bare scrape on pebbles, on the coast or on inland gravelly islands. 2-4 eggs are laid. Both eggs and chicks are highly cryptic.

Calls and Songs

The call is a distinctive loud piping.