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Variable Oystercatcher

Photo submitted by: Dic_Clifton on June 17th, 2009

Size:   3072 x 2304 pixels, 1.1 MB

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A shot of a pair of variable oystercatchers on a beach in the Abel Tasman National Park. The variable oystercatchers are the workers of the beach and mudflats, constantly busy and on the hunt for food. They are noisy and talkative birds, feeding on molluscs, crabs and worms. They open bivalve shellfish by stabbing between the shells and twisting the bill to part the shells or by hammering a hole in the shell. The adults spend some time teaching their offspring the trick of opening shells, a constant source of amusement. They nest on the shore or among rocks and therefore are often victims of holiday makers. They are great parents and are aggressive towards any threat to their offspring, mobbing aerial predators and leading ground predators, including humans, away with various tactics. The variable is slightly larger than the pied and is called variable because its colour is variable, that is it is sometimes pied, all very confusing to the unitiated. In its variable phase is usually identified from the pied by the lack of a white tab in front of the folded wing, an exercise for birdwatchers.

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