You would be hard-pressed to find a beach in the Abel Tasman without oystercatchers. This bird is found world-wide in temperate climates with two species present in mainland New Zealand – the variable and South Island pied oystercatcher.
In this part of the country the variable oystercatcher is invariably all black and is resident all year round. They are often seen in pairs looking for shellfish along beaches and estuaries. Variable oystercatchers breed locally and are often highly aggressive towards people who venture too close to their nests or chicks, dive-bombing and screeching.
Variable oystercatchers have a wonderful call, particularly when given in flight, which is evocative of wide open coastal spaces. Oystercatchers have become more numerous in recent years despite their nests being vulnerable to floods, high tides, predation and disturbance.
After heavy rain these birds are attracted to flooded pasture where they feed on earthworms. Around the Abel Tasman variable oystercatchers will roost on a sand bar or elsewhere above the tide, until they are forced out of their feeding grounds at high tide.