Nature conservation

Threatened species

Pied Oystercatcher - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Haematopus longirostris
Conservation status in NSW: Endangered
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 12 Feb 2010
Profile last updated: 13 Oct 2021


The Pied Oystercatcher is an unmistakable, large, black and white wader, reaching 50 cm in length. The sexes are similar, yet may be separable when together with the female having a slightly longer, more slender bill. When not in flight, the Pied Oystercatcher appears entirely black above, with white underparts. The back, head and breast are black, and the belly, rump and tail are white. The tail is tipped black. The wings are black with a narrow white bar on the upperwing and white underwing coverts. The eye-ring, iris and bill of the Pied Oystercatcher are brilliant scarlet and its legs are stout and coral pink. The most often heard call is a loud, sharp, high-pitched ‘kurvee-kurvee-kurvee’, usually given in alarm, which increases in pitch and rapidity when a nest site is approached. The South Island Pied Oystercatcher (H. finschi) has recently been recorded as a vagrant in NSW. This New Zealand native can be distinguished by a combination of subtle differences, including a shorter bill and legs and differences in the extent of white on the back and wings.


The species is distributed around the entire Australian coastline, although it is most common in coastal Tasmania and parts of Victoria, such as Corner Inlet. In NSW the species is thinly scattered along the entire coast, with fewer than 200 breeding pairs estimated to occur in the State. 'Pied' Oystercatchers are occasionally recorded on Lord Howe island but it is uncertain which species is involved.

Habitat and ecology

  • Favours intertidal flats of inlets and bays, open beaches and sandbanks.
  • Forages on exposed sand, mud and rock at low tide, for molluscs, worms, crabs and small fish. The chisel-like bill is used to pry open or break into shells of oysters and other shellfish.
  • Nests mostly on coastal or estuarine beaches although occasionally they use saltmarsh or grassy areas. Nests are shallow scrapes in sand above the high tide mark, often amongst seaweed, shells and small stones.
  • Two to three eggs are laid between August and January. The female is the primary incubator and the young leave the nest within several days.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known Within 5 km of coast
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known Within 5 km of coast
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known Within 5 km of coast
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
OceanManning Shelf Known None
OceanSouth Pacific Ocean Predicted None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
OceanTwofold Shelf Known None
Ocean - Other StateNorthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Ocean - Other StateSouthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known Within 5 km of coast
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known Within 5 km of coast
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known Within 5 km of coast
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Known Within 5 km of coast
Sydney BasinHunter Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None