Conservation assessment of the Sooty Oystercatcher Haematopus fuliginosus


161 – 172

26 August 14

Birgita D. Hansen, Clive D.T. Minton, Annette E. Harrison, Rosalind Jessop

Birgita Hansen
Faculty of Science, Federation University Australia, Victoria 3353, Australia


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Australian oystercatchers have received relatively little attention compared with their international counterparts. Few studies have dealt specifically with the biology or ecology of Sooty Oystercatchers Haematopus fuliginosus and have tended instead to focus on population counts and movement patterns. Nevertheless, several key aspects of their biology are well established. Sooty Oystercatchers have proved to be widespread at low densities. They typically inhabit rocky shores, which are used for both foraging and nesting. Breeding is largely restricted to offshore islands and reefs, where rocky headlands and platforms provide nesting habitat. Outside the breeding season many feed and roost on muddy and sandy shores, often in areas where nearby rocky habitats are absent (e.g. Corner Inlet, Victoria). Like their sympatric counterpart, the Australian Pied Oystercatcher Haematopus longirostris, they are long-lived and appear to form monogamous pair bonds for life. There is concern expressed in Australian literature that, because so little is known about this species especially the northern subspecies, the conservation status of populations is not sufficiently known. Count site trends suggest that populations are secure, but in the absence of detailed information from breeding sites, we cannot make accurate predictions of population viability or trajectories. Government environment departments in New South Wales and Queensland have commissioned occasional reports for the purpose of elucidating threatening processes relevant to the management of local areas. However, these reports are relatively uncommon and information contained within them is not necessarily relevant to other parts of the country. Nevertheless, while the majority of population assessments to date may not be representative of the entire  range of the species, they are the best available estimate. On this basis, we make management recommendations for conservation planning.