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)