Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘American Oystercatchers’

Oystercatcher nesting season is underway

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

By Emily Heiser, Wildlife Biologist

Many piping plover and American oystercatcher pairs have been busy laying their eggs over the last few weeks. As beach nesting bird biologists, we invest a lot of time into every pair at our sites. We revel in their successes and feel defeated at their losses. Unfortunately, many nests did not fare well in the April 25th Nor’easter that was coupled with new moon tides. Luckily, it is early enough in the season that all of them have begun, or will soon begin, attempting new nests.

The breeding habitat of the American oystercatcher in New Jersey consists of coastal beaches, inlet systems, and salt marshes.  Population estimates in New Jersey suggest 350-400 breeding pairs can be found here from March through August. Much of the monitoring and research done with American oystercatchers in New Jersey takes place on the coastal beaches where other beach nesting birds, such as piping plovers, least terns and black skimmers, are found. In 2016, more than 120 breeding pairs of beach nesting American oystercatchers successfully fledged 83 chicks. This was an especially productive year for those pairs and productivity levels were well above the target goal of .5 chicks per pair.

Photo courtesy of Sam Galick.

Oystercatchers arrive back on their breeding grounds here in New Jersey in early March to set up breeding territories and begin nesting.  Once paired up, adults typically lay one to three eggs.  Both the male and female will take turns incubating the nest for 28 days.  Once chicks hatch, they are semi-precocial, which means they are born in an advanced state, but are still reliant on adults for food and protection.  Oystercatcher chicks are fledged (or able to fly) 35 days after hatching.  After fledging, most Oystercatchers migrate to the southeast, but a wintering population does remain here in New Jersey.

American oystercatchers are listed as a Species of Special Concern in New Jersey.  A “Species of Special Concern” is a status determined by the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife and applies to species that have an inherent threat to their population or have evidence of recent population declines.  Since American oystercatchers share the same habitat as other endangered or threatened beach nesting birds (piping plovers, least terns, and black skimmers), they also share the same threats to their nests and young.  Human disturbance, a host of predators, and flooding events, such as the one that took place last week, are just some of the many threats beach nesting birds face daily.

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey has long partnered with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species program in the monitoring and management of New Jersey’s endangered beach nesting birds.  Fencing and signage are placed in nesting areas to alert beachgoers to the presence of nesting American oystercatchers and other beach nesting birds.  Throughout the summer, CWFNJ and partners will be out on the beaches monitoring and collecting data that will be used to track population trends and identify threats to oystercatchers and their young.

Emily Heiser is a wildlife biologist for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.


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A Resilient Shoreline in Stone Harbor for Birds and People

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
Conservation Partners Collaborate to Improve Beach Habitat for Birds and Provide Flood Protection for Stone Harbor Residents

By: Lindsay McNamara, Communications Coordinator

Oystercatchers © Dr. Larry Niles

Oystercatchers © Dr. Larry Niles

Beach nesting birds and New Jerseyans who live along the coast both depend on a resilient shoreline — and plenty of sand.

 

This season, thanks to a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (through their Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Grants Program), a team led by New Jersey Audubon worked with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, The Wetlands Institute, New Jersey Division of Environmental Protection, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service to make the beach community of Stone Harbor Point more resilient for birds and people alike.

 

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey collaborated with New Jersey Audubon to improve beach habitat for Piping Plovers (endangered in New Jersey), American Oystercatchers and the colonially nesting Least Terns and Black Skimmers. Sand from the southernmost tip of the point was moved to create three areas of higher elevation. The new landscape is expected to benefit Red Knots, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, Black-bellied Plovers and others.

 

Stone Harbor, a small beach town along the New Jersey shoreline will see added coastal resiliency benefits and flood protection due to this innovative project that combined the needs for shorebirds with the needs for shore residents. The Stone Harbor project also included the construction of a wide berm of sand near the beachfront parking lot at the far south end of the town. This aspect of the projects aims to increase flood protection for the residents on the developed area of the island.

 

Learn more about this project on New Jersey Audubon’s blog and in the ShoreNewsToday.com article “Working for the Birds.”

 

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is a non-profit organization created by Congress to preserve and restore our nation’s native wildlife species and habitats. NFWF is one of the largest funders of wildlife conservation in the world. They fund science-based projects and community-driven solutions.

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

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