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Variable oystercatcher

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Variable oystercatcher
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Haematopodidae
Genus: Haematopus
H. unicolor
Binomial name
Haematopus unicolor
(J.R. Forster, 1844)
Variable oyster in New Zealand

The variable oystercatcher, black oystercatcher, tōrea pango, or tōrea tai (Haematopus unicolor) is a bird in the family Haematopodidae. It lives in New Zealand.[2]

Appearance[change | change source]

This bird has a long orange bill and thick pink legs. Female birds have longer bills than male birds. Its eyes are red with an orange circle.[2]

This bird does not have subspecies, but it can come in different shades of black and white and gray. Sometimes people see young variable oystercatchers and think they are South Island pied oystercatchers, but adult variable oystercatchers are too big.[2]

Food[change | change source]

Variable oystercatchers eat molluscs, worms, and crustaceans, but they like two-shelled molluscs the most. They can put their bill inside the crack between the two shells and then twist until it opens. Sometimes red-billed gulls take the variable oystercatcher's food.[2]

Breeding[change | change source]

Variable oystercatchers sometimes choose one partner for their whole life. Sometimes a pair will stay in the same place where they build nests all year, and sometimes they will fly with flocks for part of the year. Both the male and female variable oystercatcher sit on the egg. The egg takes 28 days to hatch. The chick can fly after 6-7 weeks.[2]

Threats[change | change source]

Human beings killed this oystercatcher for food. Its population was lowest in about 1922, when people decided to stop hunting the bird. There were 2000 birds alive in the 1970s, 4000 in the 1990s and probably 5000 to 6000 alive today.[2]

New Zealand does not have laws protecting the variable oystercatcher. However, variable oystercatchers build nests in the same places as the fairy terns and New Zealand dotterels, which are protected.

References[change | change source]

  1. BirdLife International. "Variable Oystercatcher: Haematopus unicolor". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: e.T22693651A93417021. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22693651A93417021.en. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Variable oystercatcher: Haematopus unicolor J.R. Forster, 1844". New Zealand Birds. Retrieved September 1, 2021.[permanent dead link]