Although she was able to shed her transmitter in late October, Oreo the oystercatcher that is wintering on the Gulf coast of Florida has not been able to shed two dedicated oystercatcher observers. Last Saturday, November 16, Pat and Doris Leary again returned to the Horseshoe Beach area and found Oreo roosting on a jetty with assorted other shorebirds.
In the photo, Oreo can be seen standing with a group of other oystercatchers and Willets. Shorebirds tend to be social during the non-breeding season, forming large flocks on wintering grounds. These flocks help them look out for predators such as the fierce Peregrine Falcon and take advantage of the best available roosting and foraging habitat.
In fact, while on their survey Pat and Doris observed a Peregrine Falcon flush the roosting flock several times. It failed to capture any of the birds on that occasion, but shorebirds are a favorite Peregrine prey. These formidable predators target other birds, hunting from above and making spectacular dives, called stoops, onto their target. Like oystercatchers, Peregrine Falcons also migrate, following flocks of their prey south from northern breeding grounds. While oystercatchers will take advantage of manmade dredge spoil islands, some Peregrine Falcons have learned to nest on skyscrapers and bridges, which mimic their natural nesting sites on cliff ledges. Although falcons surely aren’t the oystercatchers’ favorite birds, they are an integral part of winter on the coast.