Family Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)

Near Threatened

Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)


French: Huîtrier pie German: Austernfischer Spanish: Ostrero euroasiático
Other common names: South Island Pied Oystercatcher (finschi)

Haematopus Ostralegus


, 1758,

Öland, Sweden


At various times has been considered to include any or all of H. ater bachmani, H. palliatus, †H. meadewaldoi, H. moquini, H. longirostris, H. chathamensis and H. unicolor. Taxonomic status of form finschi unclear, and may be a distinct species: has frequently been lumped with H. longirostris, or occasionally H. unicolor, or even linked with H. chathamensis; has hybridized repeatedly with H. unicolor#R. Race osculans may also deserve treatment as separate species, and has been treated as such, although without explanation#R; specimen evidence appears not to support a split. Proposed races malacophaga (Iceland and Faeroes), occidentalis (British Is) and buturlini (Turkmenistan and S Kazakhstan) are probably insufficiently distinct to warrant recognition. Has been suggested that populations as far W as NW Adriatic pertain to race longipes#R. Four subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. o. ostralegus Linnaeus, 1758 – Eurasian Oystercatcher – Iceland and Scandinavia E to R Pechora, S through British Is to NW France, with isolated populations in Mediterranean from NE Spain and S France to Turkey; winters S to W Africa.
  • H. o. longipes Buturlin, 1910 – W & NC Russia (mouth of R Ob) S to Black, Caspian and Aral Seas and L Balkhash, and E to W Siberia; winters on coast from E Africa through Arabia to India.
  • H. o. osculans Swinhoe, 1871 – coastal NE Russia (Kamchatka, Amurland and Ussuriland) through Manchuria to W part of N Korea and Hebei (NE China), and possibly in Kuril Is; winters in E China S to Guangdong.
  • H. o. finschi G. H. Martens, 1897 – South Island Oystercatcher – South I (New Zealand); winters on coasts of South I and North I.
  • Descriptive notes

    Nominate ostralegus 40–47·5 cm, male 425–805 g, female 445–820 g; race finschi c. 46 cm; male 518–615 g, female 538–622... read more


    Most-frequently heard call a repeated over-slurred piping whistle, “peep” or “kleep”. Also similar... read more


    Breeds on saltmarshes, sand and shingle beaches, less often on rocky coasts; also, especially in NW... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on mussels and other bivalves, limpets, whelks, marine polychaetes, crabs, earthworms and insect larvae, rarely fish. When foraging... read more


    Laying (ostralegus) mostly Apr–May (occasionally to early Jul), with chicks mostly fledged by mid Sept; finschi egg... read more


    All races undertake seasonal movements and habitat shifts, with evidence from nominate race of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Both nominate ostralegus and finschi have increased during present century following... read more

    Recommended citation

    Hockey, P., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2020). Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 28 February 2020).