Here in The Sea Ranch, we are fortunate to have quite a few of these dramatic birds as neighbors, but, overall, Oystercatcher is a bird of some concern due to questions about the stability of the population. Our particular variety here in The Sea Ranch is classified as the American Black Oystercatcher, Haematopus bachmani. You will have to look hard. They blend in well - being as dark as the rocks and seaweed they forage on. Frequently, all that will catch your eye is the neon orange of their bill or perhaps the pink of their feet. You will frequently see them in pairs or small flocks. They mate for life and are very territorial. If you are lucky, a small flock of them will explode in flight and simultaneously emit a sharp call vaguely reminiscent of the ululation of Arab ladies celebrating a wedding. That makes it easy to spot them, but unfortunately it usually also means that they are leaving the immediate vicinity for a better set of rocks somewhere else.
Some times the waves come too close and Oystercatcher needs to adjust his position...
You will find Oystercatcher in the splash zone in among the rocks and waves. If you watch closely you will see why the Englishman picked a really good name for him - he actually does eat bivalves like Oyster, Clam and, here in The Sea Ranch, Mussel. Oystercatcher favors the splash zone because Mussel will be more likely to open his shell if he is being washed by the waves. Once Oystercatcher sees his chance he jabs his bill in and disables the muscle that controls the opening and closing of the shell. Voila! lunch on the half shell - no sauce needed. (He, of course, has a more varied diet available in the splash zone than just bivalves, but that is not how he got his name - so who cares about sea worms and such?)
Neon eyes are amazing!