Author: Ruth Boettcher (RB), Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Charles City, VA.
The American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus palliatus) was one of several species identified in the US Shorebird Conservation Plan (Brown et al. 2001) as having small enough populations to warrant special attention. On December 19, 2001 a meeting of federal, state and non-governmental agencies and scientists responsible for managing shorebirds was convened in South Carolina to discuss forming a regional oystercatcher working group to address research and conservation priorities for the species. An informal working group was formed and members decided their first course of action would be to obtain a complete population estimate of wintering American Oystercatchers along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. This was achieved the following winter using a combination of aerial surveys, photography and ground counts from New Jersey to Texas, which yielded a range-wide population estimate of 11,000 birds (Brown et al. 2005).
Since its first meeting in 2001, the American Oystercatcher Working Group has met every year at locations across the birds’ Atlantic and Gulf coast range. Membership is open to anyone interested in American Oystercatcher research and conservation.
The AOWG seeks to develop, support and implement range-wide research and management efforts that promote the conservation of Atlantic coast American Oystercatchers and their habitats through individual and partnership-based initiatives guided by recommendations of the Working Group’s membership.
Working Group goals include the development of management objectives in a science-based, adaptive management framework. Primary objectives include; monitoring population trends at local, regional, and continental scales, obtaining reliable estimates of demographic parameters and the factors that affect them, understanding how variations in demographic parameters affect population viability over space and time, identifying threats to American Oystercatcher populations, and translating these findings into management actions that promote American Oystercatcher conservation.
The Working Group has achieved a number of research, management, and conservation milestones during its short tenure. These accomplishments have stemmed from site specific, regional and range-wide projects and have contributed significantly to the overall understanding of oystercatcher ecology. Accomplishments include; establishment of a standardized range-wide banding protocol, initiation of re-sighting surveys throughout most of the species’ range, the results of which have greatly clarified our understanding of American Oystercatcher migration, completion of a range-wide winter survey (Brown et al. 2005), development of an American Oystercatcher Conservation Plan, establishment of an American Oystercatcher Working Group website, development of a 10 year business plan for the conservation of the American Oystercatcher (Brown et al. 2008), and production of this revised species account for The Birds of North America.