South Island oystercatcher

The South Island oystercatcher or South Island pied oystercatcher (Haematopus finschi) is one of the two common oystercatchers found in New Zealand. Its name is often contracted to the acronym "SIPO" (rhyming with "typo").

South Island oystercatcher
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Haematopodidae
Genus: Haematopus
H. finschi
Binomial name
Haematopus finschi
Martens, 1897


The South Island oystercatcher is easily identifiable as a pied oystercatcher – a large wader with striking black and white plumage, long red-orange bill and red legs. It is distinguished from the pied morph of the variable oystercatcher by a white lower back, more white on the wing, and a demarcation line of black and white further forward on the breast, and from the pied oystercatcher of Australia by a longer bill and shorter legs, as well as the forward demarcation line of white on the back being pointed rather than square. It is 46 cm in length; its wingspan is 80–86 cm; it weighs 550 g.[2]

Distribution and habitat

The South Island oystercatcher is endemic to New Zealand where it breeds inland on the South Island, after which most of the population moves to estuaries and harbours on the North Island. It has been recorded occasionally as a vagrant on Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island and the eastern coast of mainland Australia. Its breeding habitat comprises braided river systems, open paddocks and cultivated land, lake beaches, subalpine tundra and herbfields. Non-breeding habitat includes coastal estuaries, bays, beaches, sandflats and intertidal mudflats.[2]



Unsurprisingly for an oystercatcher, it mostly feeds molluscs and worms.[2]


It has piping calls, which are used socially and aggressively, as well as a piercing alarm call and a quiet flight call.[2]


It nests in sand scrapes on farmland or gravel banks in braided rivers. Its clutch typically consists of two, sometimes three, brown eggs, which are blotched dark and pale brown. Its incubation period is 24–28 days, with both sexes incubating. Its young are precocial and nidifugous, fledging 6 weeks after hatching.[2]


The population of this species declined, mainly because of hunting, during the late 19th century and early 20th century but, with legal protection since 1940, has since been increasing. In 2002 the total population was estimated to be 110,000. Its conservation status is of Least Concern.[3]


  1. BirdLife International (2012). "Haematopus finschi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. Marchant, S.; Higgins, P.J.; & Davies, J.N. (eds). (1994). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume 2: Raptors to Lapwings. Oxford University Press: Melbourne. ISBN 0-19-553069-1
  3. BirdLife International. (2006). Species factsheet: Haematopus finschi. Downloaded from on 12 February 2007