De Hoop Nature Reserve is home to over 260 bird species which makes this the perfect destination for birding enthusiasts as well as general nature lovers. The African Black Oystercatcher has been named the bird of the year for 2018 by BirdLife South Africa. In honour of this, here are some some interesting facts and quirky curiosities about these charismatic creatures.
Scientific name: Haematopus Moquini – commemorates the French naturalist Alfred Moquin- Tandon ( 7 May 1804 – 15 April 1863) who discovered and named this species.
Conservation Status: In 1998, due to a diminishing population the African Black Oystercatcher was declared a threatened species. Luckily now the numbers are on the rise due to the efforts of the Oystercatcher Conservation Programme and increased food availability. Thankfully this species is now listed as Near Threatened.
Habitat: The African Black Oystercatcher is found only on the coasts of South Africa and Namibia, mainly in rocky areas.
Appearance: The African Black Oystercatcher has glossy black plumage, which creates a stunning contrast with its red legs, red eye, and bright orangey-red eye-ring and a strong, broad, long red bill.
Call: Distinctive loud piping – you can’t miss it!
Diet: They feed mainly on mussels and limpets. Eating these tasty morsels is difficult since the flesh is hidden in a tough shell. However, with its strong bill the African Black Oystercatcher can cut the muscle that holds the two halves of the shell together and stab the prey inside, or hammer the shell open on rocks
They rarely eat oysters !
Personality: These large waders are feisty, birds with tremendous character.
Mating Pattern: The African Black Oystercatcher mates for life and in certain cases pairs have been known to live together for up to 20 years.
Breeding: They breed once a year at the start summer and generally lay two greenish/grey coloured eggs in a primitive nest on sand, pebbles or rocks.
Parenting: Both parents incubate the eggs, which hatch after about 32 days.
Threats: Adults are rarely attacked but egg and chicks are at risk from human disturbance, off-road vehicles, dog attacks and predationby the kelp gull and other avian predators.
You can often spot this wonderful bird on a guided Marine Walk