First African black oystercatcher hatched at SANCCOB

First African black oystercatcher hatched at SANCCOB

SANCCOB has successfully hatched and hand-reared the first African Black oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini) at its seabird centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

Established in 1968, the non-profit organisation is well known for its work with endangered African penguins and has been successfully hatching African penguin and other seabird eggs for more than 5 years. However, the recent addition of a specialised Chick Rearing Unit is a first for the organisation.

Rescued from an iron ore terminal on the West Coast of the Western Cape (South Africa), the oystercatcher egg was admitted to SANCCOB’s Chick Rearing Unit and placed in a specialised incubator. After 15 days of incubation, the egg successfully hatched on Valentine’s Day (14 February ’16), with the chick weighing in at a healthy 42 grams. As with other new hatchlings, a big concern for the SANCCOB staff was to prevent the little chick from imprinting on humans and consequently not being able to be released back into the wild. They also wanted to give the new hatchling a suitable companion. As a solution, the team disguised one of its Bank Cormorant fluffy toys from its curio shop to mimic an adult oystercatcher using red veterinary wrap.

Nicky Stander, SANCCOB’s Rehabilitation Manager, said: “Disguising the fluffy toy worked extremely well and we were able to use it to demonstrate to the chick how to feed. He was a very fast learner and he had no trouble feeding or drinking water, with the help of his surrogate mom.”

The chick’s regular food consists of redbait, limpets and mussels, which mimics its natural diet. It was also given closed-shell mussels to encourage it to practice prying them open – as it would do in the wild. At first it struggled, but now manages this feeding practice well. At just under one month old, the oystercatcher is sprouting its first juvenile feathers and will soon be ready to take its first flight. The SANCCOB team anticipates its release in the next few weeks on the West Coast outside Cape Town.

The African black oystercatcher may be found off the mainland coasts and islands of Southern Africa. Their diets consist mostly of mollusks, such as mussels and limpets, but have also been observed eating fish and insects. They use their strong bill to pry open mussel shells and loosen limpets off the rocks. The species is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species and with only 6,000 breeding pairs remaining in the wild, these birds hold a significant conservation value.

As a non-profit organisation, SANCCOB seeks the assistance of the public to continue rehabilitating the African black oystercatcher and the many other seabirds currently in its care currently. Donations can be made on this website or through an electronic funds transfer to:

First National Bank
Account #: 59 23 713 5859
Branch: 203809
Account type: Current
Reference: Initials, surname & CHICK