oyster-catcher defined in 1930 yearoyster-catcher - Oyster-catcher;
oyster-catcher - Plumage intense black and pure white; bill orange-yellow: irides crimson; legs and feet purplish pink. Length, sixteen inches.
The oyster-catcher, or sea-magpie, is regarded by many persons as the most beautiful of our shore-birds. When seen running on the sands with a rapid, trotting gait, or standing motionless - a pied bird with thick, orange-red bill and pink legs, the large head drawn in - his appearance strikes one as singular rather than beautiful. No sooner does he take to flight, exhibiting the sharp-pointed, wonderfully conspicuous, black and white wings, than the beauty is revealed. The flight is rapid, and as he wheels round the intruder in a wide circle he utters a succession of cries, somewhat like those of the golden plover and curlew in character, but shriller and more vehement. The oyster-catcher is a resident species, to be met with throughout the year in all suitable localities on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland. He is most partial to rocky coasts with patches of sand and shingle, his food consisting chiefly of small shellfish left exposed on and among the rocks at low water. With his strong, wedge-shaped bill he strikes the limpets from the rocks and scoops out their contents; and he opens the mussel-shells by driving his beak between the closed valves and prising them apart. He also devours sea-worms, shrimps, and other crustaceans.
The nest is placed on the rocks or on rough shingle, a little above high-water mark. It is very simple, being nothing more than a slight depression in the shingle, with small pebbles and fragments of shells for lining. Several false nests are sometimes made by the birds near the one containing the eggs.
Three, or very rarely four, eggs are laid, of a pale stone-colour with a yellowish tinge, spotted and streaked with black, blackish brown, and dark grey. During incubation the male keeps watch, and gives warning of danger to his mate, who quietly leaves the nest; when the spot is approached both birds fly round the intruder, frequently alighting on the groand within a few yards of him, uttering their shrill, distressed cries the whole time. At all other times the oyster-catcher is an excessively shy and wary bird, owing to much persecution.
In autumn and winter oyster-catchers gather in small flocks, and the birds that breed on the northern coasts go south to winter, their place being taken by migrants from the Continent.
near oyster-catcher in Knolik
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