By American Oystercatcher Recovery Campaign Coordinator Shiloh Schulte
The first American Oystercatcher of the season on Nantucket was reported last week by Edie Ray, a renowned birder on the Massachusetts island and a partner with Manomet for shorebird work.
The bird was banded (with yellow bands with engraved code “W8”) as a chick in 2010 on Martha’s Vineyard and was not reported again until the summer of 2012 when it showed up on Nantucket in a small flock of non-breeding Oystercatchers.
This is typical behavior for Oystercatchers and suggests that the juvenile bird migrated in the fall of 2010 and joined a non-breeding, sub-adult flock for a couple of years before returning to the general area where it hatched to search for a territory and mate.
W8 did not nest in 2012 or 2013, though it may have tried unsuccessfully to nest on the island of Muskeget last summer.
This year, W8 appears to be trying to get a jump on the season by showing up very early. This may allow the bird to establish a territory before the competition arrives, but could backfire with the extremely cold weather and the very real threat of Snowy Owls on the island. The last time New England experienced a Snowy Owl irruption, several owls lingered on Nantucket into the spring and caught nesting Oystercatchers.
If W8 survives and breeds this year it will be four years old by the time it nests for the first time, which is about average for an Oystercatcher.
Unfortunately, there are no winter reports for W8, and it is not known where it goes when it migrates. Many Massachusetts Oystercatchers migrate to Cedar Key and other sites on the west coast of Florida, but they can also overwinter anywhere on the Atlantic coast from Long Island to Florida.
As the Coordinator for the American Oystercatcher Recovery Project, Shiloh is responsible for working with diverse partner organizations along the Atlantic Coast to identify and foster research and management programs that will aid the recovery of American Oystercatchers. Read more about Shiloh in his bio.