American Oystercatcher

A crimson bill perfectly adapted to shuck oysters and mollusks


The American Oystercatcher is a favorite resident of the Galapagos. It can be identified from its characteristic long red beak, black and white body, and stout-looking light pink legs. The female Oystercatcher tends to be slightly larger than the male, sporting a longer bill.

On your Galapagos cruise, you will most often encounter them on the central, north and south beaches of the islands. You can spot them either from on board your boat, or during a beach excursion with your Galapatours naturalist guide. You may also encounter them among dunes, salt marshes or mud flats.

The American Oystercatcher feeds on bivalves, mollusks, and crustaceans which they dig out using their perfectly adapted strong and powerful red bill. This large and heavy beak is used by the Oystercatchers to pry open mollusk shells; they are named because oysters are a crucial food source in their diet.

During breeding season you may be fortunate enough to see the birds’ courtship rituals. The Oystercatchers walk together, with both adults attracting each other’s attention by using distinctive piping calls. Oystercatchers become very territorial over their nests and often hide their eggs, disguising them with pebbles or broken pieces of shells. This smart behaviour helps to protect them from possible predators. On your Galapagos cruise, you will be able to learn much more about these charming birds, as well as photograph their beautiful red bills.

Photos of the American Oystercatcher

Fast Facts about the American Oystercatcher

  • Distinctive red beak is the perfect tool for opening shells
  • Courtship "dances" are wonderful to see
  • Disguise their nests with shells and pebbles to fool predators
  • Easy to spot from on board or during a beach excursion

Where can the American Oystercatcher be seen?

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All cruises to visit the American Oystercatcher