The following text and photos are by the dedicated conservationist Peter Chadwick who has 30 years experience in terrestrial and marine protected area management.
African black oystercatchers are resident to the West Coast and Southern Cape, with occasional birds moving into KwaZulu- Natal. In the early 1980s their numbers plummeted to around 4 500 birds. Through conservation efforts, including banning off-road driving on beaches, the population now stands at around 6 000 birds.
Resplendent in smart, all-dark plumage, with bubblegum-pink legs and dagger-like bills the colour of a Bloody Mary, African black oystercatchers are among the most charismatic species of South African and Namibian coasts. They frequent the ever-changing interface between land and ocean, foraging in spray-soaked intertidal areas pummelled by breaking waves. The birds time their movements to the millisecond, dashing forwards to snatch tasty morsels, then taking flight as the surf breaks dangerously close. They do not eat oysters, despite their name, but mussels, whelks and limpets. African black oystercatchers are thought to reach the grand old age of 35. They reproduce slowly, in common with most long-lived birds, raising one brood per season. The birds nest along the coastline of South Africa sometimes in just a depression of sand on the beach, on a dune or among pebbles usually with good surrounding views so as to avoid predation.
African Black Oystercatcher