Bachman's Oyster-Catcher

The definitive website on wildbirds & nature

Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


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[American Black Oystercatcher (see also Townsend's Oyster-Catcher).]

[Haematopus bachmani.]


According to my friend Mr. TOWNSEND, this species is abundant along the whole of the north-west coast of America, as well as in Regent's Sound, but is rarely seen on the shores within Cape Disappointment. The specimen sent to me by him is ticketed as a male, shot in June 1836; but as in this genus there is no difference as to colour between the male and the female, it may be supposed that in this case the female differs only in being somewhat smaller.

The discovery of two new species is very remarkable, especially when it is seen that not one of our three Oyster-catchers resembles the Haematopus Ostralegus of Europe, which for a long time was supposed to exist in America, on account of the figure given of this latter bird by WILSON, who must have taken it from a stuffed European specimen in PEALE's Museum in Philadelphia. Whether this be the case or not, it is pretty certain that no such bird as WILSON has represented has as yet been observed in any part of North America, although some writers have gone so far as to say so, without however offering any evidence.

BACHMAN's OYSTER-CATCHER, Haematopus Bachmani, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. v.p. 245.

Male, 17 1/2, wing 10; bill 2 3/4.

North-west coast, Regent's Sound, and about the mouth of the Columbia river. Rather common. Migratory.


Bill long, slender but strong, straight, higher than broad at the base, towards the end extremely compressed, terminating in a very thin wedge-shaped point. Upper mandible with the dorsal line at the base straight and slightly sloping, a little arched beyond the nostrils, then nearly straight and sloping to the point, the ridge broad and flattened as far as the prominence, afterwards very narrow, the sides sloping at the base, perpendicular towards the end, the edges sharp and direct. Nasal groove basal, long; nostrils sub-basal, in the middle of the groove near the margin, linear, direct, pervious. Lower mandible with the angle rather short and narrow, the dorsal line straight and slightly ascending, the ride narrow, the sides a little convex and erect, with a shallow groove at the base, the edges sharp and direct.

Head of moderate size, ovate, the forehead convex. Neck rather long. Feet of moderate length, rather stout; tibia bare for half an inch; tarsus rather short, slightly compressed, covered all round with hexagonal scales; toes rather short and fleshy, the hind toe wanting, the second shorter than the fourth, the third considerably longer, all scaly at the base above, scutellate towards the end, flattened and broad beneath, with thick margins, and connected at the base by short webs, of which the outer is longer. Claws small, compressed at the base, depressed and rounded at the end, that of the middle toe largest, with a somewhat dilated thin inner edge.

Plumage of the head and neck short and blended, of the back rather compact and slightly glossed, of the lower parts blended, the feathers in general ovate and rounded. Wings long, acute; primaries tapering toward the end, but obtuse, the first longest, the second one-twelfth of an inch shorter, the third two-twelfths shorter than the second, the rest more rapidly graduated; secondaries broad and rounded, the inner much elongated and tapering. Tail short, nearly even, of twelve rather broad, rounded feathers, of which the lateral are two-twelfths shorter than the middle (but as they are all worn the proportions cannot be determined).

Bill vermilion, fading to yellow on the worn parts toward the end. Edges of eyelids vermilion; iris yellow. Feet white, slightly tinged with flesh-colour; claws yellowish, toward the end dusky. The plumage is chocolate-brown, darker, and tinged with bluish-grey on the head and neck; the under surface of the quills light brownish-grey, their shafts whitish.

Length to end of tail 17 1/2 inches; bill along the ridge 2 9/12, along the edge of lower mandible 2 (10 1/2)/12, its greatest height beyond the nostrils (6 1/4)/12; wing from flexure 10; tail 3 11/12; tarsus 1 (10 1/2)/12; inner toe 1, its claw 3/12; middle toe 1 (4 1/2)/12, its claw (4 1/4)/12; outer toe 1 2/12, its claw (2 3/4)/12.

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