The Australian Pied Oystercatcher is found in coastal areas throughout the Australian continent except for areas of unbroken sea cliffs such as the Great Australian Bight. They seldom allow a close approach and are readily disturbed by people. The white breast and belly distinguish the Pied Oystercatcher from the closely related Sooty Oystercatcher, H. fuliginosus, which has all black plumage. Closely related forms are found in almost every continent in the world.
The Australian Pied Oystercatcher is black with a white breast and belly, and a bright orange-red bill, eye-ring and legs,and a red eye. Young birds are similar to adults, but lack the intense red-orange bare parts, and are brown rather than black. Their average size is 50cm.
They are mostly silent when feeding, but may give a whistled ‘peepapeep’ or ‘pleep-pleep’ in flight. Bird call recorded by: Marc Anderson
The Australian Pied Oystercatcher occurs along most Australian coasts except in unbroken stretches of cliffs, such as sections of the Great Australian Bight.
The Australian Pied Oystercatcher inhabits mudflats, sandbanks, sandy ocean beaches, and less often along rocky or shingle coasts. It is seldom recorded far from the coast.
The Australian Pied Oystercatcher seldom allows a close approach and is readily disturbed by people. They typically probe the sand or mud with their long bills to reach sandworms, molluscs or crabs, sometimes hammering at their shells after retrieving them. They roost at high tide, sometimes with other species, such as gulls, cormorants, waterfowl and other waders.
Australian Pied Oystercatchers often feed on bivalve molluscs, which are hammered or prised apart with their chisel-shaped bills. They also eat worms, crustaceans and insects. Food is found either by probing the mud with their long bill, or by foraging by sight. The Australian Pied Oystercatcher is one of the few waders whose young are fed by their parents. Large items such as crabs are broken up and then poked into the young bird’s bill.
The Australian Pied Oystercatcher breeds in pairs, within a breeding territory that is defended by both birds. Breeding occurs from September to December in southern Australia, but starts as early as June further north. Two or three eggs are laid in a scrape in the sand, shell grit or shingle above the high-water mark on beaches, sandbars and the margins of estuaries and lagoons. The eggs are well-camouflaged, being pale brown with darker brown and black blotches and streaks. Incubation, by both sexes, lasts for 28 days, and both share parenting duties.