Toreapango or Variable Oystercatcher (Haematopus unicolor)

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Comments (18)

Ian Stehbens on May 1, 2010

During my recent visit to South Island, New Zealand, I often visited beaches specifically to observe the fauna ranging from seals and penguins to species that I had never seen before.

These variable oystercatchers were working the stony beach and mudflats at Milford Sound. They were constantly busy. Resplendent in glossy black with their pink legs and long prominent bright red bills, they were certainly charming. But it was their partnership that impressed me most. Most of the time these two did identical things. So much so, that they appeared almost robotically programmed. I am confident they would win the prize for synchronisation.

They were feeding on molluscs and worms.

So synchronised were their movements, it almost became a game with me to see if I could photograph them out of sync!!

Ghiocela on May 1, 2010

Dear Ian, always when I see black swans, I'll think of you...! Congratulations for synchronization and these birds twin..! :) I wish you a wonderful day!!! Simona

jeff_msn123 on May 1, 2010


The couple are enjoying their free meal along the beautiful river. That is what we are looking for.

Cheers from Hong Kong, Jeff

bdeh on May 2, 2010

Great picture Ian of nice birds. I made a picture of one in SA, but my book Birds of Australia by Jim Flegg tells me it's a Sooty Oystercatcher. Are the NZ one a different kind? Greetings Berend

Ian Stehbens on May 2, 2010

Dear Simona,

I am glad you have some occasional reminders of me floating around! That is wonderful. Best wishes,


Ian Stehbens on May 2, 2010

Dear Jeff,

It is always special to receive your comments. This pair certainly found their lunch - it seemed to be laid out for them like a huge smorgasbord - synchronised feeding never seemed to stop.

Autumn greetings from Australia.


Ian Stehbens on May 2, 2010

Dear Berend.

You are the bird expert, and I wouldn't regard myself as an authority. Certainly common names can change from Australia to NZ for the same species, as they do from one part of Australia to another. But we have each identified our birds as different species, these being H. unicolor. It would appear from your photo that your bird does not have pink legs as these do. Is that right? So I suspect that Variable Oystercatcher and Sooty Oystercatcher are different species. What do you think? Does Flegg's book have H. unicolor in it?



jeff_msn123 on May 2, 2010

They must eat more before hibernation. I hope human would have hibernation too. I am too lazy. LOL

Cheers, Jeff

bdeh on May 2, 2010

I see the difference in colour of the legs now Ian. Must be a different species. In Flegg's book there is only a Pied and a Sooty Oystercatcher. Yours must be a NZ species. Greetings Berend

Ian Stehbens on May 3, 2010

Dear gondor and Berend,

Thanks for dropping in to enjoy the pics, gondor. You will have to do what Berend does: he sets aside some time, packs his cameras and buys a local birdbook at his destination and travels around a continent at a time, reading all about the many birds he photographs!


Ian Stehbens on May 3, 2010

This couple don't hibernate Jeff - they are like Hong Kong Chinese - working hard every day from daylight to dark! - every day of the year!


Theolfa on May 3, 2010

....and that's why they have red eyes! Hi, Ian! It's always a learning experience when I visit your gallery. Thank you for this one. Theolfa

Ian Stehbens on May 7, 2010

...and they would be violet if they didn't work so hard...for it can be pretty cold down south!


Theolfa on May 11, 2010


Dror Ben David on May 14, 2010

Superb birding capture! Bravo:-)

Ian Stehbens on May 15, 2010

Thanks oronbb. I don't think you have any of this genus in Israel.


Dror Ben David on May 15, 2010

You are perfectly right. We have only the "normal" Oystercatchers and even those are extremely rare...

Ian Stehbens on May 16, 2010

Greetings, my friend.

Isn't interesting the way we each see the world differently? These are the 'normal' oystercatchers in NZ, oronbb. Because of your interest in birds, I am glad I could introduce this couple to you.

Best wishes,


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Photo taken in 90 Milford Sound Hwy, Milford Sound 9679, New Zealand

Photo details

  • Uploaded on May 1, 2010
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    by Ian Stehbens