Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Helping to Track the American Oystercatcher

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday week at the beach, Ocean Isle Beach to be exact. I took full advantage of the change in venue and birds by doing a good bit of birding once the rain stopped midweek. On Saturday November twenty-ninth five other birders joined me for a day of birding the area. One thing I always check for is leg bands on certain species like American oystercatchers and piping plovers. I didn’t see any piping plovers but did encounter a nice flock of fifteen oystercatchers in Saucepan Creek; with one individual sporting some green leg bands with a readable code on each.
American oystercatchers catch the attention of birders and non-birders alike. They are large birds that have strong contrasting black, brown, and white plumage. The most prominent feature however is the bright red bill and bright red eye ring of the adults.
The American oystercatcher has been identified as one of several shorebird species where the population is low enough as to warrant special attention. In 2001 the American Oystercatcher Working Group was formed to gather information on the species and to come up with management plans. One initiative was to establish a banding program that has greatly increased knowledge of the species’ migration movements and wintering sites. With binoculars or scopes, the codes on the bands can be seen and reported to an online database. Within a few days a report is sent back to the observer letting them know where the bird was originally banded and locations of other re-sightings, if any.
By reporting re-sightings, even the casual birder can contribute to the knowledge of where important migration stop-over spots are, as well as important wintering areas. The Working Group can them come up with conservation strategies to help these favorite beach birds out.
I reported the banded bird from Saucepan Creek and the band code of “CJO”. You can just make out the band code on the accompanying photo that was taken at some distance. This appears to be a young bird as evidenced by the dark portions of the bill, different from the bright red bill that adults show.

As of this writing I have not received a report of where this bird was banded or where else it has been spotted. I will let you know when I hear something. 

 Here is the subject bird of today's blog. It was taken at some distance, but with the aid of a scope the band code was able to be seen. Note on all the birds below that the bands are all the same color green. This indicates all were hatched and banded in North Carolina. Each state has its own unique band color and scheme.
Am. Oystercatcher, Saucepan Creek, Brunswick Co NC 

The photo below shows another young banded bird from Wrightsville Beach area of NC. Note the dark tip to the bill indicating a 1st year bird. The bird on the right is a juvenile laughing gull.

A. Oystercatcher; by John Ennis

The photo below shows an adult banded oystercatcher from Cape Hatteras. Note the adult has a completely red bill and prominent red eye ring.

Am. Oystercatcher; Cape Hatteras NC