Go to the new Waikawa News site.
Sign up for the monthly Waikawa Newsletter.

03 He aha tērā? Variable Oystercatcher

Medium size black birds with long orange beaks in shallow water.
Miraz Jordan

You’re on the beach, perhaps just south of the river and see these birds, probably in pairs, maybe running around on the sand. He aha tērā? What is that?

A chunky black bird with a bright orange bill.
Photo by Miraz Jordan. Used with permission.

Answer: it’s a variable oystercatcher, tōrea pango:

Identification: Length: 48 cm; Weight: 720 g

Similar species: South Island pied oystercatcher, Chatham Island oystercatcher

A large heavily-built wader with black upperparts and underparts that vary from all black through a range of “smudgy” intermediate states to white. The long straight bill is bright orange, the stout legs coral-pink, and the eyes red each with an orange eye-ring.

Previously shot for food, variable oystercatchers probably reached low numbers before being protected in 1922, since when numbers have increased rapidly. They are long-lived, with some birds reaching 30+ years of age.

This item was updated on Tuesday 22 March 2022

I live at Waikawa Beach and love all the wildlife, fauna and flora.