American Oystercatcher Working Group


Author: Pam Denmon (PD), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Eastern Shore of Virginia/Fisherman Island NWR.


Young call in egg 2 d before they hatch (PD). Young give quiet peep call prior to fledging. After fledging, they begin to repeat kleep call occasionally; dissyllabic klee-eep given only when parents arrive with food or when being handled.

Vocal Array

Ground calls. Variable from single to bi-peaked and compound-repetitive forms (Miller and Baker 1980). Hueep Calls—long, with a gentle rise, are associated with flight (Miller and Baker 1980).  Birds on nonbreeding roost sites give single note long hueep or weeer call which increases with intensity just prior to flock flying from site.  These calls may also serve an alarm function or some other form of communication within the flock.

General Contact Call. Both sexes give a loud kleep or peep, which varies with context, often repeated continuously and usually monosyllabic. A dissyllabic klee-eep is given occasionally.

Pairing Call. Both sexes give a long drawn out version of peep call during ground courtship particularly when no others are present.

Piping Call. Used by both sexes during aerial and ground courtship and territorial displays (see Behavior). Piping begins with rapid, brief calls that become progressively longer (Miller and Baker 1980). Brief piping calls show sudden changes in frequency similar to those of the H. leucopodus (Miller and Baker 1980). Many calls from piping series are very similar to alarm calls (Miller and Baker 1980), and piping may be a highly ritualized form of these calls in its rapid delivery, rhythm, and strong grading across adjacent elements (Miller and Baker 1980).

Alarm Call. Adults defending nest sites with eggs or just prior to laying, will often give single-note pip or wip distress call (Miller and Baker 1980) when flying around intruder or trying to lure intruder away from nest site. Rate of calling typically increases with intruder’s proximity to nest. Distress call of adults defending chicks consists of a multiple-note whinny of rapid peep notes, descending in pitch at end; although sometimes made defending territory without chicks (PD).

Nonvocal Sounds

Not known to produce these.