oyster catcher, common name for members of the family Haematopodidae, ploverlike shorebirds, cosmopolitan in distribution. Their distinctive red bills are long, blunt, and flattened, efficient for catching and opening the oysters, mussels, and clams on which they feed. They are noisy birds, larger (21 in./52 cm) and more brightly marked than most other shorebirds. Species found in America are the black, European, and Frazer's oyster catchers of the genus Haematopus. Oyster catchers nest in shallow, debris-lined cavities in the sand. They lay two to four eggs per clutch, and both male and female share incubation duties. Oyster catchers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Charadriiformes, family Haematopodidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology