American Oystercatcher
(Haematopus palliatus)


Picture of bird
© John Reaume
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The American Oystercatcher is very rare in Canada, though it may have bred as far north as Labrador at one time. It was first recorded breeding on Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia, in 1997, and up to 4 pairs have nested there in subsequent years. The population in Canada remains small, but limited information precludes the assessment of this species’ population status relative to 1970.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow R2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Critically imperiled2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaData DeficientData DeficientData Deficient

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada< 50 adults (includes birds breeding and migrating within Canada)

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery Low

Conservation and management

All American Oystercatchers in Canada are expected to originate from the population along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Although this population has expanded its range since about 1970 and is increasing in abundance in some areas, the population remains small, is declining in the core of its range, and continues to face significant threats from habitat loss due to coastal development (Clay et al. 2010). It appears that Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina are key breeding and wintering areas. Main threats include cascading effects from coastal development: habitat loss, increased human disturbance associated with increased development, and increased predation pressure as a result of human activities (American Oystercatcher Working Group et al. 2012). Reduced food availability and climate change have also been cited as potential threats for the species (American Oystercatcher Working Group et al. 2012).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type