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Variable Oyster Catchers

Variable Oyster Catchers
Photo Information
Copyright: Janice Dunn (Janice) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3277 W: 148 N: 6163] (18832)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-11-02
Categories: Birds
Camera: Canon EOS 30d, Canon 70-300mm DO IS USM
Exposure: f/6.3, 1/500 seconds
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2008-11-01 23:53
Viewed: 4146
Points: 24
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
Variable Oystercatcher
Haematopus unicolor
Maori Name: Torea or Toreapango

Today my husband and I drove out to Whangaparoa Peninsula and walked along Shakespear Beach. In summer this beach is covered in sunbathers and the water is full of people swimming. Today there were a few people swimming but quite a few picnickers.

When there arenít many people there you are more likely to see some of the local birds. We saw many seagulls and Black Backed gulls, and lots of Pukekos and a couple of Peafowls (on the reserve) and also this pair of Variable Oystercatchers on the beach.

The variable oystercatcher, like its name suggests, is variable in colour from completely black to pied. They have a long orangy-red bill and eye, with pink legs. They are slightly larger (48cm) than the pied oystercatcher (46cm). The juvenile is brownish black and the bill is brown/black and starts to colour-up from about 3 months old.

They feed on molluscs, worms, crabs, small invertebrates and even small fish. They use their strong beak to split open bi-valves, (shells that open and are joined by a central point), especially oysters around oyster beds, thus giving them their name.

The oystercatchers call in flight with a loud shrill 'kleep'.

Oystercatchers remain in breeding pairs all year long and often stay within the breeding territory all year. They first breed at the age of 3. They breed on rocky and sandy coasts making their nest, a shallow scrape, on the sandy beaches or rocky ledges. They lay 2 or 3 eggs which are incubated for about 28 days by both sexes. The chicks fledge at 2 days old but stay with the parents to be fed for another 3 weeks. Although they learn to fly at 6-7 weeks old they don't leave the natal territory until about 3 months old. The parents closely guard their young, even being known to fly at and dive bomb humans who venture too close to the natal territory!

Vital Statistics
Conservation Status
: Protected Rare Endemic
Mainland Status: Population c4000 and increasing
Size: 48cm, 725g
Life Span: Oldest recorded: 27 years
Breeding: September - February
Diet: Mainly molluscs, worms, and crabs.


siggi, jconceicao, eqshannon, ramthakur, ubc64 has marked this note useful
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ThreadThread Starter Messages Updated
To thistle: Kia ora MonikaJanice 5 11-02 13:24
To greychick: Thank youJanice 1 11-02 11:06
To thistle: witamcataclysta 2 11-02 11:04
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Critiques [Translate]

Lovely shot, nice and sharp, which I have found is hard with these birds. There seems to be something about them being all black that somehow makes it hard to get a good focus on??? I have a sharp one myself but I have heaps that arent quite as sharp as I'd like. anyway, a lovey shot tfs.


  • Great 
  • siggi Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3097 W: 109 N: 12399] (52850)
  • [2008-11-02 1:08]

Hello Janice,
Wow ! What a capture ! It's so clear and sharp. The composition of that pair works very well. Amazing eyes. Thanks,
Regards Siggi

Hello Janice,

Beautuful capture of this birds.
Excellent focus and sharpness.
Lighting and composition are fantastic.

  • Great 
  • PeterZ Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5137 W: 166 N: 13121] (49139)
  • [2008-11-02 5:43]

Hello Janice,
Beautiful photo of these oystercatchers. Great natural colours and very sharp with good details. Nice eye-contact and composition.

I have seen oyster catchers but ours wear jeans and carry shovels:-) Never once have I seen a bid catch an oyster...nice that you were able to get in so closely and also good that you handled the hard black with good technicality!

Hi Janice,
these are beautiful birds, I've never seen such red eyes! I like your shot, thanks and greetings
Sabine - wishnugaruda

Hello Janice,

I've been trying to catch up with TN lately and as I was suspecting there's not that many "old" TNers still here. I'm very happy to see you still going strong ;-)

The picture is very good, I especially like the POV and colours. The DOF is spot on and so is the exposure.


  • Great 
  • lousat Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6595 W: 89 N: 15659] (65489)
  • [2008-11-02 14:21]

Hi Janice,it seem a syncronized ballet! Fantastic pic,perfect in sharpness and colors and no better moment to take this spectacular couple! My best compliments,have a nice week,LUCIANO

Janice, this is a very beautiful picture of these interesting birds.
I like their almost synchronized pose on the beach -- their natural habitat.
The image is excellent technically.
Well done and thanks for sharing this beautiful picture.

Hi Janice ,
Nice shot with great details.
Well captured.

Kind regards

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-11-03 1:23]

Hello Janice, WoW what a shot. Nice and sharp. perfect looking eyes. Ganesh

  • Great 
  • ubc64 Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 76 W: 21 N: 208] (789)
  • [2008-11-04 11:34]

Hi Janice,

A very striking shot! The red beaks and red eyes of those birds really stand out! Your focusing and composition are great. A few times I've tried to take photos of birds that are quickly moving along a shore, and usually I've been disappointed with the results. Your capture turned out very well indeed. TFS.

By the way, I never did reply to your last note about using FlashEarth effectively. I'm glad that you were able to do that. I find it very useful to be able to check out an area and get lat/long coordinates.


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