Birds Are Wonderful: M, N, and O !

BIRDS  ARE  WONDERFUL  . . .  M,  N,  and  O !

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Jesus said: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink . . . Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, . . . your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”   (Matthew 6:25-26)

For welcoming in the year of our Lord 2020,  below follows the fifth advance installment of alphabet-illustrating birds of the world, as part of this new series (“Birds Are Wonderful  —  and Some Are a Little Weird*).  The letter M is illustrated by Magpies, Magnificent Frigatebird, and Motmots.  The letter N  illustrated by Nightingale, Needle-billed Hermit, and Nighthawk (also called “Nightjar”).  The letter O illustrated by Osprey, Oriental Stork, and Oystercatcher.

“M” BIRDS:   Magpies, Magnificent Frigatebird, and Motmots.


“N” BIRDS:  Nightingale, Needle-billed Hermit, and Nighthawk.


“O” BIRDS:  Osprey, Oriental Stork, and Oystercatcher.


Birds are truly wonderful — and some, like the “egg-dumping” Oystercatcher, are a little bit odd, if not also weird!  (Stay tuned for more, D.v.)

* Quoting from “Birds Are Wonderful, and Some Are a Little Weird”, (c) AD2019 James J. S. Johnson   [used here by permission].



Oystercatchers Must be Gentiles


Dr. James J. S. Johnson


American Oystercatcher (Conserve Wildlife Foundation photo)

These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.  And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you; they shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcasses in abomination.  Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.    (Leviticus 11:9-12)

[At some point, please review Acts chapters 10 & 15, and 1st Timothy 4:1-5 (quoted below), to see how it was decided that New Testament Gentile Christians were not to be burdened with keeping the Mosaic dietary restrictions — which would include the ban on shellfish reported in Leviticus 11:9-12.]

Oystercatchers are amazing birds.  As their name indicates, they are famous for eating raw shellfish, especially oysters — and their strong and sharp bills are providentially designed and shaped to accomplish forced entry into shellfish shells, to facilitate getting at the mollusk-meat inside those bivalve shells.

Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils: speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.  For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving, for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.   (1st Timothy 4:1-5)


American Oystercatcher (Chesapeake Bay Program photo)

“American Oystercatchers are large, stocky shorebirds with long, orange razor-sharp bills.  Found exclusively in marine habitats [such as tidal beaches], they eat mostly shellfish, including oysters, clams and mussels, which are hammered open or quickly stabbed through an opening in the shell and cut open [for “fast-food” consumption].  When the opportunity arises, they will gladly eat a host of other intertidal invertebrates, including limpets, crabs, marine worms, sea urchins, chitons and even jellyfish.”   [Quoting Wayne R. Petersen & Roger Burrows, BIRDS OF NEW ENGLAND (Lone Pine Publishing, 2004), page 129.]


American Oystercatcher on tidal beach (Chesapeake Bay Program photo)

This skill for accessing he raw mollusk meat inside a bivalve is also described by ornithologist Fred J. Alsop III:

“Like all oystercatchers, this bird [i.e., the American Oystercatcher] uses its three-to-four-inch, laterally compressed, sharp chisel-tipped bill to pry open shells for food, but it sometimes hammers and chips them open as well.”  [Quoting Frederick J. Alsop III, BIRDS OF TEXAS (Smithsonian Handbooks, 20020, page 174.]

Obviously, with a mollusk-rich diet (as (described above), the American Oystercatcher declines to keep the Mosaic (i.e., Jewish) dietary code restrictions, especially as provided in Leviticus 11:9-12.   Rather, its shellfish-dominated diet better resembles the New Testament Gentile diet, as recommended in Acts chapter 15, which was later confirmed by the apostle Paul in 1st Timothy 4:1-5 (quoted above).

The first time that I viewed American Oystercatchers was at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, (on the Gulf of Mexico’s northwestern coastline, touching southern Texas), on March 11th AD1995, during an avian ecology research trip, taken as part of a doctoral program.  What a conspicuous shorebird this busy wader is!

And now for my limerick, to highlight the oystercatcher’s dietary habit, as a warning to all tidewater beach-dwelling bivalves.

Oystercatchers Must be Gentiles

Beware! oyster, clam, and mussel,

Don’t with Oystercatchers tussle;

That sharp, orange bill

Is keen for the kill

So, from it, you’d better hustle!


American Oystercatchers (American Bird Conservancy photo)

Child’s Book of Water Birds ~ The Oyster Catcher

The Oyster Catcher

Child's Book of Water Birds - Book Cover

Child’s Book of Water Birds – Book Cover


Childs Bk of Water Birds titlebird





Welcome to the Updated Child’s Book of Water Birds, by Anonymous. It was written in 1855 and this is 2013. That is 158 years ago.

Childs Bk of Water Birds oystercatcher


The Oyster Catcher feeds generally on shell-fish, oysters, limpets, &c. He detaches them from the rocks to which they are fastened, and opens them with his long, stout bill. The head, neck, and body are black. It lays two olive-brown eggs, spotted with black.


American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) by Robert Scanlon

American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) by Robert Scanlon


Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. (John 21:4 ESV)

American Oystercatchers are sometimes called the American Pied Oystercatcher. They are about 19 inches (42-52 cm) long. They were created with a large thick orange or red beak which helps them pry open their food, like oysters, clams, and mussels. They belong to the Oystercatcher Family which has twelve (12) species. They like the coastal areas and nest on the beaches. In winter, they are found in flocks along the coast from central New Jersey to the Gulf of Mexico (eastern) or along the Pacific coast from northwestern Baja California southward. (western).

Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) Family by Beedie Savage

Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) Family by Beedie Savage


See the other five Child’s Book of Water Birds:

The Swan

The Coot

The Dabchick

The Teal

The Goose


Oystercatcher Family

Oystercatcher – Wikipedia

Oystercatcher – All About Birds

Oystercatcher – ARKive


Bible Birds

Wordless Birds


Child's Book of Water Birds - Levit and Allen

Back Cover



Ian’s Bird of the Week – Sooty Oystercatcher

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus fuliginosus) by Ian 1

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus fuliginosus) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Sooty Oystercatcher ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8-16-12
Back to Australia for this week’s bird, the Sooty Oystercatcher. Oystercatchers are large, conspicuous, noisy and mostly popular waders, though not greatly loved by those who harvest shellfish such as mussels. There are about a dozen closely-related species worldwide, two of which are resident in Australia, the Pied and the Sooty. Both occur right around the coasts of Australia and Tasmania, with the Sooty being the less common. It is primarily an inhabitant of rocky shores, first photo, while the Pied is found mainly in sandy habitats. At 46-49cm/18-19in the Sooty is slightly shorter on average than the Pied 48-51cm and distinguished by its all black plumage.

Two races are recognised, though their status and range are uncertain. The nominate race (fuliginosus) occurs in southern Australia and is characterised by the narrower red eye-ring and finer bill like the bird in the first photo, taken near Sydney. The northern race (opthalmicus) has a fleshier, more orange eye-ring and a thicker bill. It is supposed to occur from Shark Bay in Western Australia to Lady Elliot Island at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, but the bird in the second photo taken near Lennox Head in northern NSW fits this description. There is disagreement in the field guides about whether opthalmicus has a longer or shorter bill.

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus opthalmicus) by Ian 2

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus opthalmicus) by Ian 2

The diets of the two species differ. The Pied feeds mainly by probing sand and soil for worm and other burrowing invertebrates. The Sooty feeds mainly on intertidal invertebrates on rocks such as gastropods (third photo), limpets, crustaceans, echinoderms and ascidians.

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus fuliginosus) by Ian 3

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus fuliginosus) by Ian 3

They will also feed on beaches near rocky headlands and the one in the fourth photo is part of a small flock probing through piles of washed-up seaweed.

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus fuliginosus) by Ian 4

Sooty Oystercatcher (Haematopus fuliginosus fuliginosus) by Ian 4

There is some overlap in the habitats of the two species, so they are occasionally found together. The fifth photo show two walking in step along a beach at the end of August and look like more than just good friends. The breeding season of southern Sooties starts in September and the two species have been known to hybridise, so draw your own conclusions.

Sooty Oystercatcher (H fuliginosus) and Pied (H longirostris) by Ian 5

Sooty Oystercatcher (H fuliginosus) and Pied (H longirostris) by Ian 5

A third species, the South Island Pied Oystercatcher of New Zealand, sometimes turns up on the east coast sometimes and more frequently on Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. This is subtly different from the Pied Oystercatcher and a challenge for enthusiastic birders to identify.

Best wishes


Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737
Check the latest website updates:

Lee’s Addition:

Thanks again, Ian, for sharing your birds with us. We always learn something neat about birds and their behaviors. I have seen our two Oystercatchers, the Black and the American. That Sooty seem similar to our Black.

Oystercatchers belong to the Haematopodidae – Oystercatchers Family. There are 12 members in the family, one of which is extinct.

Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. (Matthew 13:46 KJV)

Ian said, “not greatly loved by those who harvest shellfish such as mussels.” Maybe that is because they are looking for those pearls of great price and the Oystercatchers are beating them to it. Humm!

Check out:

Ian’s Oystercatcher pages and then

The Haematopodidae – Oystercatchers Family here