American Oystercatcher on Santiago Island

American Oystercatcher on Santiago Island, Galapagos

The Oystercatcher is an interesting bird. It is the only bird that opens the shells of bivalves with a quick jab and plunges into the open shells. They can also pry open the shell or use their bill to hammer on the outside until it cracks.

The population of this species in the Galapagos Islands is only around 200 pairs. In the Americas, the population is struggling due to habitat loss and the introduction of plastics into their diets.

We watched a nesting pair. Determining gender by appearance is impossible, so I will describe the activities without gender reference. One bird was sitting on the “nest,” which was nothing more than a bed of pebbles. The other was wandering along not far from the former, testing various pebbles for size and possibly color. It was hard to tell, but that bird picked up and dropped many small pebbles before taking any back to its mate.

For the first time on our trip to the Galapagos Islands, I was a little disappointed by the behavior of some of my fellow visitors. I felt they crowded these birds too much. They likely didn’t realize we were there during mating season, and the birds were probably incubating eggs. There were just enough of us that our naturalist guide could not keep track of every individual’s activities.

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