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 Lüderitz, 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).

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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>
  • Urban, E.K., C.H. Fry & S. Keith (1986). The Birds of Africa, Volume II. Academic Press, London.
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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, Tjørve 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
2012

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. The current population trend is unknown, but if the species was found to be in decline it might qualify for a higher threat category.

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Status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix II of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (3).
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Population

Population
The population is estimated at 5,000-6,000 individuals (T. Dodman in litt. 2002), roughly equivalent to 3,300-4,000 mature individuals.

Population Trend
Increasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The peak of the breeding season coincides with peak coastal recreational activities and the resulting disturbance reduces breeding success (Leseberg et al. 2005). Off-road vehicles are a particular problem, as they churn up beaches, run over nests and crush eggs, and kill young hiding in vehicle tracks. In addition, people on beaches can keep adults off nests for extended periods, overheating eggs and killing embryos, and predation of eggs and chicks by domestic dogs can be a problem (Leseberg et al. 2005). Disturbance also leads to the predation of eggs and chicks by Kelp Gulls Larus dominicanus (Jeffery and Scott 2005). On sections of the coastline undisturbed by humans, natural predators (e.g. mongoose) take many nests. The mainland is likely to prove a population sink for surplus birds from near-shore islands, with breeding productivity too low to sustain coastal populations. Coastal development is thought to have caused declines in some areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The c.30% of the total population that is found on offshore islands is threatened by the introduction of mammalian predators (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

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The coastal breeding site of the African black oystercatcher makes it vulnerable to human disturbance, particularly as the breeding season coincides with the height of the summer tourist season. Eggs and chicks are crushed by people or off-road vehicles, or eaten by domestic dogs (5). Coastal development has also caused populations to decline in some areas (2). As the African black oystercatcher forages exclusively in the intertidal zone, it has a limited time to obtain the food it requires before the tide comes in. Disturbance during this period may result in birds having insufficient time to obtain enough food for themselves and their young (5). African black oystercatchers breeding on islands are less vulnerable to human disturbance; instead the major threat to these populations is the introduction of terrestrial mammalian predators (2) (7).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
On most near-shore islands, population sizes have been stable or increased recently due to either improved management, e.g. the cessation of guano-scraping during the 1980s, and/or a change in diet from indigenous limpets and mussels to invasive mussels such as Mytilus galloprovincialis (e.g. at Robben Island, South Africa) (Calf and Underhill 2002). Recreational vehicles have been banned from the Overberg coast since February 2002 (Jeffery and Scott 2005). The national Oystercatcher Conservation Programme (OCP) has been raising public awareness concerning the species and its needs, and has been generating local community involvement it its conservation (Jeffery and Scott 2005).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor population trends and annual breeding success. Study local rates of predation. Create disturbance-free areas on beaches. Protect areas of coastal habitat. Design measures to prevent the introduction of mammalian predators to breeding islands.

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Conservation

The Oystercatcher Conservation Programme, launched in 1998, undertakes research on the African black oystercatcher and aims to develop a conservation strategy for the African black oystercatcher (8). In addition, this bird is listed on Appendix II of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, which calls on parties to the agreement to engage in a wide range of conservation actions (3).
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Wikipedia

African Oystercatcher

The African Oystercatcher or African Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini), is a large charismatic wader resident to the mainland coasts and offshore islands of southern Africa. This near-threatened oystercatcher has a population of over 6,000 adults, which breed between November and April.[9] The scientific name moquini commemorates the French naturalist Alfred Moquin-Tandon who discovered and named this species before Bonaparte.[10]

Description[edit]

The African Black Oystercatcher is a large, noisy wader, with completely black plumage, red legs and a strong broad red bill. The sexes are similar in appearance, however, females are larger and have a slightly longer beak than males. Juveniles have soft grey plumage and do not express the characteristic red legs and beak until after they fledged. The call is a distinctive loud piping, very similar to Eurasian Oystercatchers. As the Eurasian Oystercatcher is a migratory species they only occur as a vagrant in southern Africa, and its black-and-white plumage makes confusion impossible.[9]

Average Measurements[edit]

Body Length: 42–45 cm (17–18 in)
Wingspan: 80 and 88 cm (31 and 35 in)
Mass: ♂ 665 g (1.466 lb) ♀ 730 g (1.61 lb)
Tarsus: 50.6 to 60.8 mm (1.99 to 2.39 in)
Culmen: 57.7 to 79.1 cm (22.7 to 31.1 in)[9]

Distribution and Habitat[edit]

The African Black Oystercatcher is native to the mainland coasts and offshore islands of Southern Africa sometimes occurring as a vagrant in Angola and Mozambique. Its breeding range extends from Lüderitz, Namibia to Mazeppa Bay, Eastern Cape, South Africa. There are estimated to be over 6,000 adult birds in total.[1][9]

Typically sedentary African Black Oystercatchers rarely leave their territories, which include a nesting site and feeding grounds. These will usually be located on or near rocky shores where they can feed.

Habits[edit]

Feeding[edit]

African Black Oystercatchers predominantly feed on molluscs such as mussels and limpets, although are known to also feed on polychaetes, insects[11] and potentially even fish.[12] They are adapted to pry open mussels and loosen limpets off the rocks but have been recorded picking through sand to locate other food items.

Breeding[edit]

The nest is a bare scrape on pebbles, sand or shingle within about 30 metres (98 ft) of the high-water mark. On rock ledges there may be a rim of shells to keep the eggs in place. The female generally lays two eggs, but there may be one or three, which are incubated by both adults. The incubation period varies between 27 and 39 days and the young take a further 38 or so days to fledge. Breeding success is greater on offshore islands where there are few predators and less disturbance than mainland sites.[13]

The eggs average about 65 mm (2.6 in) long, ranging from 45 to 73 mm (1.8 to 2.9 in), and have a breadth of 41 mm (1.6 in), ranging from 34 to 45 cm (13 to 18 in).

Longevity and mortality[edit]

The lifespan of an African Black Oystercatcher is about 35 years, of which they are known to pair up for 25 years. Although adults are rarely predated most mainland egg and chick fatalities are due to disturbance by people, off-road vehicles, dog attacks and predation by the Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus) and other avian preditors.[1] Off shore pairs experience similar avian predation although most chicks perish due to starvation.

Status[edit]

The IUCN lists the African Black Oystercatcher as being "Near Threatened". The population trend seems to be upward as the local community becomes more involved in adopting conservation measures. The current Red Data list (2014) under construction lists the species as Least Concern, once this is published this link will be updated.

Current Research[edit]

Ongoing research is being undertaken for this species on the migration of young. If you happen to see an oystercatcher with coloured or numbered bands on their legs take note of the numbers and colours and contact the ADU or Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology with the information. If an adult is found dead with metal rings please let SAFRING know the details.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c BirdLife International (2012). "Haematopus moquini". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Parzudaki, Émile (1856). Catalogue des oiseaux d'Europe offerts, en 1856, aux ornithologistes. Paris: E. Parzudaki.
  3. ^ Verzeichniss der Doubletten des zoologischer Museums hiesiger Königl.Universität...nebst Beschreibung vieler bisher unbekannter Arten von Säugethieren,Vögeln,Amphibien und Fischen...,p.73.
  4. ^ The Genera of Birds, 1844-49, Pt.42, Haematopodinae (Dec.), no.2. bound vol.3,p. 547.
  5. ^ Die vollständigste Naturgeschichte der Sumpfvögel:Aves Grallatores. (= Novitiae ad Synopsin Avium...II.Grallatories (III Rasores) No.: V, pl.168, figs.1042-43.
  6. ^ Nomenclator avium Musei Zoologici Berolinensis.Namenverzeichniss,p.93. (Kaffernland). Not Haematopus unicolor Wagler,1832.
  7. ^ Nomenclator Musei Heineani Ornithologici,p.337.
  8. ^ Checklist of Birds of the World, 2, p.233.
  9. ^ a b c d Hockey, P. A. R. (2005). Roberts birds of southern Africa. Cape Town: Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund. 
  10. ^ Parzudaki, Émile (1856). Catalogue des oiseaux d'Europe offerts, en 1856, aux ornithologistes. Paris: E. Parzudaki. 
  11. ^ Ryan, P. G.; Visagie, J. (2008). "African Black Oystercatchers feeding in a terrestrial habitat". Ostrich 79: 243–243. 
  12. ^ Paijmans, D. M. (2013). "Piscivory in the African Black Oystercatcher". Promerops 294: 15. 
  13. ^ "Species factsheet: African Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini". BirdLife International. Retrieved 2013-12-11. 
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