Haematopus ostralegus

  1. Wildlife
  2. Birds
  3. Wading birds
  4. Oystercatcher


A common wader, the oystercatcher is very noisy with a loud 'peep-ing' call. On the coast, they specialise in eating shellfish, particularly cockles and mussels, which they either prise or hammer open with their strong, flattened bills. Originally a coastal species, oystercatchers have moved further inland over the last 50 years to breed on waterways and lakes. Most UK birds still spend their winters by the sea, however, and are joined by birds from Norway and Iceland.

How to identify

Unmistakeable: black and white with a long, red bill and pinky-red legs.

Where to find it

Widespread around the coast and also nest inland on gravel pits and large rivers.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Although oystercatchers are relatively common birds, they rely on shellfish stocks. In some areas they use populations of cockles which makes them vulnerable if cockle beds are overexploited by man. To ensure that we keep the populations of oystercatchers and other waders healthy, it is important that our marine environment is managed properly. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. This work has recently had a massive boost with the passing of the Marine Bill, promising sustainable development of the UK's marine environment. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Haematopus ostralegus
Wading birds
Length: 40-45cm Wingspan: 83cm Weight: 540g Average Lifespan: 12 years
Conservation status
Classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.