Family Oystercatchers (Haematopodidae)

Least Concern

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus)


French: Huîtrier fuligineux German: Rußausternfischer Spanish: Ostrero negro australiano

Haematopus fuliginosus


, 1845,



Occasional hybridization recorded with H. longirostris#R#R#R. Form opthalmicus generally considered to be a race of present species on basis of putative region of intergradation with nominate fuliginosus in W Australia, where both taxa rare, but no good evidence of interbreeding; also, some confusion regarding range limits of both forms, with opthalmicus usually said to be restricted to Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York Peninsula; striking differences in eyering colour suggest that opthalmicus may well be a distinct species; field and laboratory research required in order to clarify this case; emendation of name to ophthalmicus is not justified. Two subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • H. f. opthalmicus Castelnau & E. P. Ramsay, 1877 – Spectacled Oystercatcher – coast and islands of N Australia from Shark Bay (CW Western Australia) to Lady Elliot I (SE Queensland).
  • H. f. fuliginosus Gould, 1845 – Sooty Oystercatcher – coast and islands of S Australia from Houtman Abrolhos Is (CW Western Australia) around S coast and up E coast to about Brisbane (SE Queensland); Tasmania.
  • Descriptive notes

    46–49 cm; 550–980 g. Entirely sooty-black oystercatcher with red eye, eyering and bill, and pink legs. Longer-tailed than other black oystercatchers; folded wings... read more


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


    Nominate fuliginosus breeds on sand and shingle beaches, also on rocky shores, especially... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet includes limpets, whelks, bivalves, chitons, crustaceans, echinoderms and ascidians, also stranded fish; contains significantly more... read more


    Season Aug–Jan. Nest a scrape in ground, often among boulders, lined to varying extents with shell fragments. Usually two eggs (2... read more


    Mostly sedentary. In area of Hobart (Tasmania), birds move very short distance from breeding... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total population previously considered to number fewer than 4500 birds, but has more recently (early 2000s) been estimated at 11,500... read more

    Recommended citation

    Hockey, P., Kirwan, G.M. & Boesman, P. (2020). Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus). 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 27 January 2020).