The Rock Star of the Rocky Intertidal

March 26, 2017 Posted by: Stephanie Root
A popular, but rare, shorebird visits the rocky intertidal habitat of Cabrillo National Monument infrequently. It is the black oystercatcher, and many birders will come out to Cabrillo just to spot it. There is absolutely no mistaking this large bird when you see it—with a bright red, thick beak, yellow eyes, and dark black plumage—it can be seen on the rocky shores preening and feeding on mussels and limpets, prying them from their shells off rocks with their stout beaks.

Even rarer is the hybridized black oystercatcher crossed with an American oystercatcher. Because the distribution of both species overlaps from Baja to San Diego, hybridization can occur and we sometimes see the result of it in our shores. A keen eye can spot a hybrid if there happens to be any white coloration on the underparts or wings.  Our VIP Don Endicott spotted this rare occurrence last week:

Photo of an Oystercatcher
Don Endicott

Do you think you could spot a hybrid? Try and see if you can! Black (and hybrid) oystercatchers are best viewed from the Sea Cove parking lot overlook (the parking lot after the main tidepool access parking lot). You can help us keep track of these occurrences by posting them to the iNaturalist app or website ( Happy birding!

Rare Species, Hybrid, Rocky Intertidal, Birds

Last updated: March 26, 2017

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