Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: South Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

South Carolina Project

Foraging Ecology and Health Assessment of American Oystercatchers throughout the Annual Cycle

March 2006 - December 2008


Participating Agencies

  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

The U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan identified the eastern race of the American Oystercatcher as a species of extremely high priority. The subspecies breeding population is < 3,000 and declining. South Carolina supports ca. 400 breeding pairs (ca. 60% nest in the Cape Romain Region; CRR) and ca. 35% of the wintering oystercatchers along the east coast (ca. 50% of these birds are in the CRR). Many of the oystercatchers that breed in the CRR also winter there (i.e., are residents), although nonresidents from breeding sites as distant as New England also winter there. Preliminary data also suggest that reproductive success ranges widely among habitat types within the CRR. Chronic failure occurs along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway (AICW) while success is variable on estuarine islands. The former habitat type may act as an ecological trap, while the latter may be a source. This study will identify foraging areas of breeding oystercatchers and of wintering adults throughout the CRR, measure use of shellfish beds, link foraging ecology with reproductive success, and define diet of breeding adults and wintering adults via behavioral observations.

Research Publications Publication Date
Thibault, J.*, F. Sanders, P.G.R. Jodice. 2010. Parental attendance and brood success in American Oystercatchers. Waterbirds 33:511-517. July 2010
Hand, C.*, F. Sanders, P.G.R. Jodice. 2010. Foraging proficiency during the nonbreeding season in a specialized forager: Are juvenile American Oystercatchers (Haematopus palliatus) 'bumble-beaks'* compared to adults? Condor 112:670-675. October 2010
Theses and Dissertations Publication Date
Janet Thibault, Dept. Forestry and Natural Resources, M.S. student, August 2005 – August 2008: Nesting and Foraging Ecology of American Oystercatchers in the Cape Romain Region, South Carolina August 2008
Christy Hand, Dept. Forestry and Natural Resources, M.S. student, August 2006 – August 2008: Wintering Ecology of American Oystercatchers August 2008