Black oystercatcher

Black oystercatcher

BANDON — During a recent minus tide, people may have noticed orange cones on the beach around a sea stack. Those cones were put there by Shoreline Education for Awareness volunteers who, while not policing the beach, are trying their best to keep the black oystercatcher nests from being disturbed. 

During that morning, the SEA volunteers Diane Bilderback and Nancy Bailey, among others, were happily educating anyone who asked why they were there. Bilderback and her husband Dave have been volunteering with both SEA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for many years.

"While our Bandon volunteers are monitoring black oystercatchers here in Bandon for the Portland Audubon's Black Oystercatcher Project, Nancy Bailey and I were working with the Shoreline Education for Awareness group to help make visitors to our beach aware that black oystercatchers nest on rocks near the shore and that human presence can disturb them," Bilderback said.

The nest they were protecting and educating the public about was easily seen from the beach. There is another nest that is also visible just north of Coquille Point, Bilderback said.

"Dave and I and other volunteers have been monitoring black oystercatcher numbers and nesting for 12 years now," Bilderback said. "We initially volunteered for a USFWS project, monitoring nests north and south of Gold Beach. But after the gas prices rose, we realized that Bandon had a large number of nesting black oystercatchers right here. And so we decided that we should watch all the birds living in Bandon. We often have as many as 17 nests and 34 or more Black Oystercatchers living on rocky islands in Bandon."

Black Oystercatchers are a "species of concern" as they can only live in a rocky intertidal area as they eat mussels, chitons, limpets, crabs and other invertebrates. Oregon has 395 miles of shoreline, but only 82 miles (21%) are rocky intertidal habitat. In 2017, a study on abundance in Oregon showed that there were about 580 black oystercatchers in Oregon.

Oregon Black Oystercatcher Project

The Black Oystercatcher is a unique shorebird species that is a conspicuous and charismatic bird of the coast. Because of their small global population size, low reproductive rate, and reliance on rocky intertidal habitats, they are considered a “species of high conservation concern” and act as an indicator of intertidal ecosystem health.

Portland Audubon is monitoring Black Oystercatchers to provide new information on this species biology including an Oregon-wide population estimate, nesting success, and human disturbance factors.

These efforts are informing better protection for this species and is also an important part of our work to secure better protections for Oregon’s iconic rocky shoreline habitat and Oregon’s marine reserves and protected areas. A critical part of this project is engagement and outreach to local communities up and down the coast.

Partners: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of Cape Falcon, Haystack Rock Awareness Program, U.S. Geological Survey, Friends of Haystack Rock, Audubon Society of Lincoln City, Cape Arago Audubon Society, Kalmiopsis Audubon Society and others.

For more information or to train become a volunteer (once the COVID-19 pandemic safety concerns have been lifted), visit https://audubonportland.org/get-involved/community-science/black-oystercatcher/

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