Birds of the Redlands - Sooty oystercatcher

Photo: Patrick Kavanagh

Scientific name: Haematopus fuliginosus

Status:

  • Queensland: Least concern (NCA 1992)

What does it look like?

The sooty oystercatcher is a large wading bird reaching 50cm in length. It has a bright orange-red bill, an eye-ring and coral-pink legs and feet. Females have a longer and slimmer bill than males and are often larger in size; however, this is not always the case.

Where do they live?

The sooty oystercatcher is endemic to Australia and lives in coastal environments within 100m from the ocean. Their habitats include rocky headlands, rocky shelves, and exposed reefs with rocks, beaches and muddy estuaries.

Sooty oystercatchers almost exclusively breed on offshore islands and occasionally on isolated mainland headlands and peninsulas. Nests often sit at ground level in low-visibility sites.

Sooty oystercatchers forage on exposed rocks for hard-shelled prey such as crabs and molluscs or soft-bodied prey such as marine worms. They use their long bills to pick the prey from the rocks and stab, lever, hammer or scissor hard shells to prise edible parts. The diets of male and female sooty oystercatchers differ in the quantities of hard-shelled and soft-bodied prey they consume.

What is threatening them?

  • Destruction and disturbance due to human interaction
  • Residential, agricultural and tourism developments
  • Predation by invasive species
  • Hydrological changes.

Conservation

The sooty oystercatcher is protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. It is an offence to hurt or interfere with the sooty oystercatcher in any other way than when accepted by the Act.

Redland City Council manages environmental pests throughout the Redlands to minimise their impact on native ecosystems and endangered birds such as the sooty oystercatcher.

Did you know...?

The bird’s features are similar to the Pied Oystercatcher (h. longirostris); however the two species differ in size and feather colour, with the sooty oystercatcher being much larger and entirely black.

The sooty oystercatcher’s and pied oystercatcher’s diets likewise differ, with the sooty oystercatcher’s containing more hard-shelled prey than the pied oystercatcher. This reduces inter-species competition and enables their coexistence in the same areas of habitat.

How you can help

Respect signs restricting access in the sooty oystercatcher’s habitat areas and be aware that beach-combing, fishing, 4WD, horseriding and dogwalking in these specific areas can negatively affect the birds.

If you have seen or suspect the sooty oystercatcher at any location, please report it to IndigiScapes on (07) 3824 8611.