©James Rodgerson


©Chris Gomersall/2020VISION


Scientific name: Haematopus ostralegus
The loud 'peep-ing' call of an Oystercatcher is a recognisable and familiar sound of the seashore. Look out for it hunting on rocky and muddy shores for shellfish to eat. It can also be spotted on some inland waterbodies where it has started to breed.

Species information


Length: 40-45cm
Wingspan: 83cm
Weight: 540g
Average lifespan: 12 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Listed as Near Threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When to see

January to December


The Oystercatcher is very noisy wading bird with a loud 'peep-ing' call. On the coast, it specialises in eating shellfish, particularly cockles and mussels, which it either prises or hammers open with its strong, flattened bill. Originally a coastal species, the Oystercatcher has 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

The Oystercatcher has a black head, back and wings, and a white underside. It has a long, red bill and pinky-red legs.


Widespread around the coast, with large wintering numbers at major estuaries. Also nests inland on flooded gravel pits and large rivers.

Did you know?

There are 12 species of oystercatcher in the world, all of which look very similar, being either pied or plain black, with a red bill and pink legs. A further species of oystercatcher became extinct in the 20th century.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a Living Seas vision, where coastal and marine wildlife thrives alongside the sustainable use of the ocean's resources. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.