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Meet Olivia and Oscar 

Can you guess which is which?

Male and female oystercatchers have exactly the same coloring, unlike many other bird species. The female is a little larger, but not enough to tell just by looking.

A Winter Apart

Olivia Mates don’t necessarily spend the winter in the same place – they could end up in different southern states.


Migration to Massachusetts

They arrive in late March or early April.

Oscar and Olivia Reunite

American Oystercatchers normally mate for life.

Chatham: Land of Plenty Oscar and Olivia will be living on Tern Island – the tidal flats and all the barrier beach habitat make a perfect nesting and feeding area.

North Beach Island Tern Island

Fish Pier

A Good Oystercatcher Territory

Feeding on the Tidal Flats

They have a knack for prying open the shells of clams, oysters and other bivalves, then snipping the muscle that holds the shell closed.

Getting Serious about Nesting

Courting behavior includes displays and scrape-making – the pair will make several scrapes.

Oscar and Olivia Get Banded

These bands can be read without having to recapture the birds. They give us valuable information on the birds’ migrations paths, and where the birds that breed in our area spend the winter.

The First Scrapes are Destroyed Washed away in spring high tides

Olivia Lays Her Eggs

They make a new scrape above high tide line, and Olivia lays 2 eggs (clutches are usually 2 – 3 eggs). This open beach habitat is preferred by Oystercatchers.

Oscar and Olivia Take Turns Incubating

The eggs hatch after about 4 weeks of incubation.

The Pair Defends Their Chicks Eggs and young chicks attract many predators, from crows and gulls to foxes and domestic dogs and cats.

The Chicks Hide From Extreme  Weather and Predators The chicks are protected by their parents, who also help them get food until they gain the skills and jaw strength to open bivalves themselves.

Where are the chicks hiding?

There they go!

The Chicks Get Banded

Oscar, Olivia, and their Chicks Head South

Migration occurs in family groups, around late September.

Hanging Out and Growing Up

The birds won’t breed until they are three or four years old, though they may come North for part of the breeding season to check out breeding areas and practice adult skills like scraping and defending territory.

Olivia and Oscar: Back to Chatham!

The birds will come back to the same area next year, and start the cycle again.

Thank You Photography Shawn Carey, Ben Carroll, Roger Everett, Mark Faherty, Jim Fenton, John Fuller, Becky Harris, Scott Hecker, Ellen Jedrey, Sasha Keyel, Sidney Maddock, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Shiloh Schulte, Michelle Stantial, John Van de Graaff, Mark Wilson, Kate Wyman, Margo Zdravkovic

An American Oystercatcher's Summer on Cape Cod  

Follow a pair of Oystercatchers as they fly north and spend their summer on a Chatham beach, raising their chicks.