Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

African black oystercatchers forage in the intertidal zone of their coastal habitat (5). In rocky areas the primary prey for the African black oystercatcher are mussels and limpets, but this coastal bird also feeds on whelks and other bivalves and crustaceans (2) (6). Feeding on such prey can pose difficulties as the tasty flesh is hidden within a hard 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 (2). The African black oystercatcher can lay eggs from October to April, but laying occurs primarily from December to February. In a scrape in the sand, among shells or sometimes on bare rocks, a clutch of one to two eggs is laid (2). The eggs hatch after 27 to 39 days of incubation, and the young fledge between 35 to 40 days of age, ending a period in which the eggs and young are exceptionally vulnerable to terrestrial predators. African black oystercatchers are believed to first breed at the age of three or four, and live for over 18 years (2).
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Description

Large flocks of this bulky bird can be found along the coast of South Africa (4). The African black oystercatcher has glossy black plumage, which contrasts with its red eye, and bright orangey-red eye-ring and long bill. The sturdy legs are a deep pinkish-red. Males can be distinguished from females by their blunter, shorter bills (2), and immature oystercatchers have duller, browner plumage with a dark tipped bill (4).
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Distribution

Range Description

Haematopus moquini has a coastal breeding range which stretches from Lderitz, Namibia, to Mazeppa Bay, Eastern Cape, South Africa. The total population is estimated to number 5,000-6,000 individuals (T. Dodman in litt. 2002 to Wetlands International 2002), with about half occurring along the Western Cape (South Africa) coastline, half of these on its near-shore islands.

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Range

Coasts of s Africa (n Namibia to e Cape Province).
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Range

The African black oystercatcher breeds along the southern African coast from northern Namibia to the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa (2).
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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Description

Length: 41 cm. Plumage: all black. Immature browner than adult. Bare parts: iris red; eyering orange; bill red with an orange tip; feet and legs purplish pink. Habitat: rocky coastal shores, coastal islands; sometimes coastal vleis and lagoons. Breed in southern Africa. <389><391><393>
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour Adults of this species are mostly sedentary, although some seasonal movement occurs between breeding and non-breeding habitats (Hockey et al. 2005), within a 15km range (Urban et al. 1986). Breeding occurs from September to April, with a peak from November to February (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). It breeds slightly later in Namibia than in South Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). The start and duration of egg-laying is affected by predation risk and weather conditions, including unpredictable tidal inundation (Calf and Underhill 2005, Tjrve and Underhill 2008). Juveniles either disperse at independence, moving up to 150km from their natal site to areas with high adult density (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005), or migrate up to 2000km to one of five nursery areas (Hockey et al. 2005). These return to their natal area after 2-3 years (Hockey et al. 2005). The species breeds and forages solitarily (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005), but roosts communally in groups of up to 200 in the non-breeding season (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005). Habitat Breeding Offshore islands and sandy beaches are favoured as breeding habitats (Hockey et al. 2005). It rarely breeds on mainland rocky shores (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005). Non-breeding The species forages exclusively in the intertidal zone (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005) and is found on mainland rocky and sandy shores during the non-breeding season, being less frequent in estuaries, lagoons and coastal pans (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). It tends to roost on promontaries with good all-round visibility (Hockey et al. 2005). Nurseries occur in both sheltered bays and open rocky shores (Hockey et al. 2005). Diet Its diet includes primarily bivalves such as limpets and mussels, but also polychaetes, whelks and crustaceans (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). Breeding site The nest is a scrape in sand where possible, but on rocky subtrata shells are built up to form a lip (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005), or eggs are laid on bare rock (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). The nest is usually situated within 30m of the high water mark (Hockey et al. 2005, Calf and Underhill 2005), often beside a disruptive object such as a rock or clumps of kelp (Hockey et al. 2005, Jeffery and Scott 2005). The clutch-size ranges from one to three eggs, but is usually two. The incubation period is 27-39 days, followed by a fledging period of 35-40 days; pairs rear one or two chicks. Fledging success is 0.3-0.6 young per pair per year on predator-free offshore islands, but is lower on the mainland. There is evidence that breeding productivity has increased on the west coast since 1980, following the invasion of the Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis. Age of first breeding is three years in females, and probably four years in males. The species is known to live for over 18 years (del Hoyo et al. 1996).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Marine
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The African black oystercatcher inhabits rocky and sandy shores, and sometimes estuaries and coastal lagoons. It prefers to breed on offshore islands and sandy beaches (2).
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Haematopus moquini

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
NT
Near Threatened

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2015

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s
Dodman, T. & Simmons, R.

Justification
This species is listed as Near Threatened owing to its small population and hence almost qualifies for Vulnerable under criterion C1. The current population trend is unknown, but if the species is found to be in decline it might qualify for a higher threatened category.


History
  • 2012
    Near Threatened (NT)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
  • Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
  • Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
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