American Oystercatcher Working Group

New Jersey

AMOY Research & Monitoring in New Jersey


Variation in American Oystercatcher demography and distribution among natural and man-made islands in coastal New Jersey

The American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus) is a species of conservation concern throughout its range due to human encroachment on breeding grounds and high nest losses due to intense mammalian predation. New Jersey holds an estimated 15% of all breeding American oystercatchers in Atlantic and Gulf coast states ranking it among the top five US states in terms of importance for implementing stated recovery goals for the species. Dr. Tom Virzi at Rutgers University is currently evaluating the variation in nest success among natural and man-made islands, which tend to be naturally free of mammalian predators and thus highly productive. Data is being collected that will be used to model island suitability in an effort to identify the key biotic and abiotic variables that influence oystercatcher distribution, density and nest success on these islands.

Demographic data (survivorship, fecundity, etc.) also continues to be collected as part of a long-term mark-recapture study that is being conducted in collaboration with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife – Endangered and Nongame Species Program and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. We have been color-banding oystercatchers in New Jersey since 2004; so far over 300 oystercatchers have been color-banded and the effort to increase the marked population continues. While intensive breeding season and winter roost surveys for previously banded oystercatchers are conducted in New Jersey throughout the year, we always appreciate the reporting of any encounters with banded oystercatchers at any season.


Since 2005, banding of American Oystercatchers in New Jersey has been performed following the protocols established by the American Oystercatcher Working Group. Between 2005 and 2007, we used duplicate “bright” orange darvic bands engraved with 2 black letters/numbers with codes separated by black dots. Since 2008, we have been using duplicate “dull” orange darvic bands engraved with 2 black letters/numbers with the first character underlined (see photo in side gallery for comparison).

NJ Color-Band Fading Issue

The original “bright” orange bands used between 2005 and 2007 have shown signs of substantial fading (see photos). The faded orange bands may look pink or yellow in some light conditions, and thus could easily be confused with yellow-banded oystercatchers from Massachusetts. Special care should be taken when observing any banded oystercatchers that appear to have either orange or yellow bands to ensure accurate reporting. Note that the fading of the “bright” orange bands appears to have stabilized to a pale orange color as of 2011. Additionally, we have not observed any fading of the later “dull” orange bands.

New Jersey Banding Schemes

(there may be occasional variation in timing and leg placement of banding schemes)

2004-present: Duplicate orange bands with black horizontal code (two black engraved horizontally-oriented letters/numbers) on upper legs

Winter 2004: Upper Left leg: Yellow flag with black engraved letters/numbers, Lower Left leg: No band, Upper Right leg: Metal USFWS band, Lower Right leg: Green band

New Jersey Contacts

  • Todd Pover – New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife (Endangered and Nongame Species Program) and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey
  • Tom Virzi – Grant F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, Rutgers, New Jersey