An Unusual Nesting Site for an American Oystercatcher Pair

May 19, 2021

On a late spring morning, an American oystercatcher was foraging along the rocky shoreline searching for food as the tide was coming in. I observed and photographed this American oystercatcher as it was stabbing his brightly colored orange red bill into the water at the edge of the rocks. It would consistently find oysters just under the water’s surface. Using his sharp bill, the oystercatcher would pry open the oyster shell and extract the oyster with his long bill. But instead of eating the oyster, the oystercatcher would grab the oyster in his bill and fly off, carrying the oyster to feed his chick that was nearby at its nesting site. The male oystercatcher would repeatedly go searching and finding oysters and bring them back to feed his chick while the female American oystercatcher watched over their one chick at the oystercatchers nesting site.

Pair of American oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) nesting site on old marine pier where they are feeding one chick oysters at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
Pair of American oystercatchers on an old marine pier used as their nesting site. One oystercatcher is feeding chick that is hidden behind the concrete wall on the pier.

American Oystercatchers Nesting Site

I followed the oystercatcher to see where he was taking the oysters, suspecting that he was feeding chicks. I found that the pair of American oystercatchers was feeding one chick on this old marine pier located on the rocky shoreline that sits along Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginia on the Hampton Roads.

Usually, American oystercatcher nests are found on the ground near vegetation on barrier beaches within the dunes, mudflats, sandy beaches, marsh islands or on dredge-spoil islands. Some pairs have even nested on gravel rooftops or rocky artificial islands, but this American oystercatcher pair at Fort Monroe found an old marine pier in the wide open along the shore on which to nest and raise their one chick.

American oystercatcher chick waiting to be feed by his parents on their nesting site on an old marine pier at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
American oystercatcher chick at nesting site on an old waiting to be feed by his parents on their nesting site on an old marine pier at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.

American Oystercatcher Feeding Chick

In between the feedings, the male oystercatcher would defend the nesting territory and chick anytime a gull or tern would fly over the old marine pier. These birds are very territorial and will defend their territory especially when nesting or raising chicks. The American oystercatcher chicks rely on their parents for food until the time when the chicks’ bills are strong enough to probe and stab for food and feed themselves.

I found this location of the American oystercatchers raising their one chick to be unusual or non-typical for American oystercatchers. This old marine pier is behind a building that has a parking lot and pier located behind locked gates, so these oystercatchers are pretty safe from the human predators. Although the old pier is situated along the shore and near a marina there are a lot of gulls, terns and even an occasional bald eagle flying over this area. I was quite surprised when I happened on this pair of oystercatchers raising their chick on the old marine pier in the wide open with no vegetation around to add any protection. 

American oystercatcher feeding chick at nesting site on an old marine pier at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.
American oystercatcher feeding chick at nesting site on an old marine pier at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.


All About Birds:

Thank you for reading my Field Notes blog, and I hope you will share this post with others.  

Let’s protect our wildlife and nature!

All the very best,


Copyright © 2021 Lori A Cash

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2 replies to “An Unusual Nesting Site for an American Oystercatcher Pair

  1. What a fantastic story, loved hearing about the oystercatchers! Love the pictures! They tell the story, too! Nice!

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