Tuesday, 22 March 2011

African black oystercatcher

Haematopus moquini

Common name:

Order Charadriiformes
Family Haematopodidae

This species is found along the coasts of southern Africa, from northern Namibia to the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.

These birds are 42-45 cm long. Females tend to be larger than males, weighing 646-800 g while males weigh 482-757 g.

African black oystercatchers generally prefer rocky and/or sandy shores of islands or the mainland, occasionally moving to lagoons, estuaries and coastal pans.

They mostly eat mussels and other aquatic invertebrates, namely limpets, whelks, polychaetes, anemones, clams and sand hoppers. They do most of their foraging in the intertidal zone, dislodging molluscs from rocks with a jab of the bill or probing the sand for other animals.

These monogamous, solitary nester breed in September-April, with a peak in November-January. The nest is a simple scrape in the ground excavated by both sexes, usually dug into sandy soil and lined with shells and rock chips. If the substrate is too hard to dig into, it places extra shells and rock chips along the rim of the nest. It is typically placed close to the high-water mark, concealed by an adjacent object such as kelp or a rock. there the female lays 1-2 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for 27-39 days. The chicks leave the nest after about 24 h and are cared for by both parents, who regularly feed them in or near the intertidal zone. They fledge after 35-40 days but only become fully independent 2-6 months later.

IUCN status - NT (Neasr threatened)
The African black oystercatcher has a global population of just 5.000-6.000 individuals, being susceptible to human disturbance, especially urban development and the use of off-road vehicles on beaches (destroying nests). Predation of eggs and chicks by domestic dogs and natural predators can also be a problem for this small population with low reproductive rates. Despite this, the population is suspected to be increasing thanks to improved habitat management on near-shore islands.

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