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African Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is listed as Near Threatened owing to its small population and hence almost qualifies for Vulnerable under criterion C1. The current population trend is unknown, but if the species is found to be in decline it might qualify for a higher threatened category.

Taxonomic source(s)
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

42-45cm. All dark oystercatcher with fully black upperparts, orange bill and eye-ring, red eye and pinkish-red legs. Similar spp. Very similar to other black oystercatchers, but range does not overlap. Darker upperparts than New World species and bill much shorter than Australasian species. The Extinct Canary Island Oystercatcher H. meadewaldoi had shorter wings and a longer bill than H. moquini.

Distribution and population
Haematopus moquini has a coastal breeding range which stretches from Lüderitz, Namibia, to Mazeppa Bay, Eastern Cape, South Africa. The total population is estimated to number 5,000-6,000 individuals (T. Dodman in litt. 2002 to Wetlands International 2002), with about half occurring along the Western Cape (South Africa) coastline, half of these on its near-shore islands.

Population justification
The population is estimated at 5,000-6,000 individuals (T. Dodman in litt. 2002), roughly equivalent to 3,300-4,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be increasing thanks to improved habitat management on near-shore islands.

Behaviour Adults of this species are mostly sedentary, although some seasonal movement occurs between breeding and non-breeding habitats (Hockey et al. 2005), within a 15km range (Urban et al. 1986). Breeding occurs from September to April, with a peak from November to February (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). It breeds slightly later in Namibia than in South Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). The start and duration of egg-laying is affected by predation risk and weather conditions, including unpredictable tidal inundation (Calf and Underhill 2005, Tjørve and Underhill 2008). Juveniles either disperse at independence, moving up to 150km from their natal site to areas with high adult density (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005), or migrate up to 2000km to one of five nursery areas (Hockey et al. 2005). These return to their natal area after 2-3 years (Hockey et al. 2005). The species breeds and forages solitarily (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005), but roosts communally in groups of up to 200 in the non-breeding season (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005). Habitat Breeding Offshore islands and sandy beaches are favoured as breeding habitats (Hockey et al. 2005). It rarely breeds on mainland rocky shores (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005). Non-breeding The species forages exclusively in the intertidal zone (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005) and is found on mainland rocky and sandy shores during the non-breeding season, being less frequent in estuaries, lagoons and coastal pans (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). It tends to roost on promontaries with good all-round visibility (Hockey et al. 2005). Nurseries occur in both sheltered bays and open rocky shores (Hockey et al. 2005). Diet Its diet includes primarily bivalves such as limpets and mussels, but also polychaetes, whelks and crustaceans (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). Breeding site The nest is a scrape in sand where possible, but on rocky subtrata shells are built up to form a lip (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005), or eggs are laid on bare rock (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Hockey et al. 2005). The nest is usually situated within 30m of the high water mark (Hockey et al. 2005, Calf and Underhill 2005), often beside a disruptive object such as a rock or clumps of kelp (Hockey et al. 2005, Jeffery and Scott 2005). The clutch-size ranges from one to three eggs, but is usually two. The incubation period is 27-39 days, followed by a fledging period of 35-40 days; pairs rear one or two chicks. Fledging success is 0.3-0.6 young per pair per year on predator-free offshore islands, but is lower on the mainland. There is evidence that breeding productivity has increased on the west coast since 1980, following the invasion of the Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis. Age of first breeding is three years in females, and probably four years in males. The species is known to live for over 18 years (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

The peak of the breeding season coincides with peak coastal recreational activities and the resulting disturbance reduces breeding success (Leseberg et al. 2005). Off-road vehicles are a particular problem, as they churn up beaches, run over nests and crush eggs, and kill young hiding in vehicle tracks. In addition, people on beaches can keep adults off nests for extended periods, overheating eggs and killing embryos, and predation of eggs and chicks by domestic dogs can be a problem (Leseberg et al. 2005). Disturbance also leads to the predation of eggs and chicks by Kelp Gulls Larus dominicanus (Jeffery and Scott 2005). On sections of the coastline undisturbed by humans, natural predators (e.g. mongoose) take many nests. The mainland is likely to prove a population sink for surplus birds from near-shore islands, with breeding productivity too low to sustain coastal populations. Coastal development is thought to have caused declines in some areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The c.30% of the total population that is found on offshore islands is threatened by the introduction of mammalian predators (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Conservation Actions Underway
On most near-shore islands, population sizes have been stable or increased recently due to either improved management, e.g. the cessation of guano-scraping during the 1980s, and/or a change in diet from indigenous limpets and mussels to invasive mussels such as Mytilus galloprovincialis (e.g. at Robben Island, South Africa) (Calf and Underhill 2002). Recreational vehicles have been banned from the Overberg coast since February 2002 (Jeffery and Scott 2005). The national Oystercatcher Conservation Programme (OCP) has been raising public awareness concerning the species and its needs, and has been generating local community involvement it its conservation (Jeffery and Scott 2005). Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor population trends and annual breeding success. Study local rates of predation. Create disturbance-free areas on beaches. Protect areas of coastal habitat. Design measures to prevent the introduction of mammalian predators to breeding islands.

Barnes, K. N. 2000. The Eskom Red Data Book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.

Calf, K.M. and Underhill, L.G. 2002. Productivity of African black oystercatchers Haematopus moquini on Robben Island, South Africa, in the 2001-2002 breeding season. Wader Study Group Bulletin 99: 45-49.

Calf, K.M. and Underhill, L.G. 2005. Tidal impact on breeding African black oystercatchers on Robben Island, Western Cape, South Africa. Ostrich 76(3-4): 219-221.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. and Ryan, P.G. 2005. Roberts birds of southern Africa. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Jeffery, R.G. and Scott, H.A. 2005. Breeding success of African black oystercatchers Haematopus moquini at Cape Agulhas, Western Cape, from 1978/79 to 2001/02. Ostrich 76(1-2): 8-13.

Leseberg, A., Hockey, P.A.R. and Loewenthal, D. 2000. Human disturbance and the chick-rearing ability of African black oystercatchers (Haemotopus moquini): a geographical perspective. Biological Conservation 96: 379-385.

Tjørve, K. M. C.; Underhill, L. H. 2008. Breeding phenology of African Black Oystercatchers Haematopus moquini on Robben Island, South Africa. Ostrich 79(2): 141-146.

Urban, E.K., Fry, C.H. and Keith, S. 1986. The Birds of Africa, Volume II. Academic Press, London.

Wetlands International. 2002. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Martin, R, O'Brien, A., Pilgrim, J., Robertson, P., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J

Dodman, T. & Simmons, R.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Haematopus moquini. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - African black oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini)

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)
Species name author Bonaparte, 1856
Population size 3300-4000 mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 140,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change