A black oystercatcher at water’s edge. (Photo: © Tom Grey)
The ocean battered the East Coast this past week, but for the Black Oystercatcher the seashore is a protective habitat. BirdNote’s Michael Stein reports.
CURWOOD: We've recently had a lesson in the sea's power, but as BirdNote®'s Michael Stein explains - for some birds, despite the ocean's occasional destruction, the seashore is a protective habitat.
[PIPING CALL OF THE BLACK OYSTERCATCHER, HEARD OVER WAVES ON ROCKY SHORELINE]
STEIN: We’re crouching on a rocky shoreline on the Pacific Coast – hearing the piping call of the Black Oystercatcher, a stocky black bird with bright red eyes and a stout, orange-red bill perfectly suited for jabbing limpets and mussels. Let’s listen again.
[CALL OF THE BLACK OYSTERCATCHER]
STEIN: A strong ebb tide is flowing, creating whirlpools and tugging at the kelp. On nearby rocks, harbor seals, looking like huge, taut sausages, have hauled out to rest. If we’re lucky today, we’ll hear some snorting!
[HARBOR SEAL SNORTING]
STEIN: The oystercatcher is completely dependent on this marine shoreline for nesting and food, even in winter, when waves hit these rocks with awesome force. Yet what seems like an inhospitable environment to us must offer some advantages to the oystercatcher.
For one, wave-splashed mussels, the bird’s chief food, open more often, making them easier to attack and eat. For another, when the monogamous Black Oystercatcher nests on ledges just off shore, its eggs and young suffer far less predation by mammals. Now that’s something to celebrate!
[CALL OF THE BLACK OYSTERCATCHER ]
SETIN: P.S. Contrary to their name, oystercatchers rarely eat oysters. I’m Michael Stein.
CURWOOD: There are pictures of Black Oystercatchers over at our web-site, loe dot org.
(Call of the Black Oystercatcher  provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by A.A. Allen. Waves recorded by J.R. Storm
Producer: John Kessler. Executive Producer: Chris Peterson.All rights reserved)
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.
Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth