Sooty Oyster Catcher looking through washed up shells for food

Quick Facts

Length: 50 cm
Height: -
Weight: -
Colour: Black with long red bill, eye and pink legs
Habitat: Coastal. Rocky shores, coral reefs, sandy beaches and mudflats
Food: Molluscs, crustaceans, crabs, marine worms, starfish, sea urchins and small fish
Predators: -
Status: Vulnerable in NSW. Secure in all other states and territories in Australia
Sooty Oyster Catcher scouring the rocky shoreline for food
Sooty Oyster Catcher finds sand worm

The Sooty Oystercatcher is a striking black shorebird with a long red bill, red eye and pink legs. Young birds are duller and browner. It is often seen with the similar Pied Oystercatcher and is only found in coastal areas.

The Sooty Oystercatcher is the only all-black shorebird in Australia and is easily distinguished from the similar sized and shaped Pied Oystercatcher, which is black and white.

The Sooty Oystercatcher is endemic to Australia and is widespread in coastal eastern, southern and western Australia.

The Sooty Oystercatcher is strictly coastal, usually within 50 m of the ocean. It prefers rocky shores, but will be seen on coral reefs or sandy beaches near mudflats. It breeds on offshore islands and isolated rocky headlands.

Mostly resident and territorial, moving to islands to breed. In Tasmania, overwinters in non-breeding areas.

The Sooty Oystercatcher feeds on molluscs, crabs and other crustaceans, marine worms, starfish and sea urchins, and small fish. It uses its long bill to stab at prey or to lever, prise or hammer open food items. It drinks seawater.

The Sooty Oystercatcher breeds in colonies, with both members of a breeding pair incubating eggs and caring for the young. They nest in a scrape on the ground among pebbles or shells on rocky shores or cliffs.

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Wednesday 8th January, 2014
BirdLife Australia -


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