First Glimpses of American Oystercatcher U5 & Family


I am writing to announce the arrival of two chicks to American Oystercatcher U5 and his mate over the last 48 hours.

American Oystercatcher U5 with mate and two young chicks on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC
Photograph by Mark Andrews

At the beginning of May, I wrote to announce that American Oystercatcher U5 and his mate had nested on North Beach. U5 has been a resident around Captain Sam’s Inlet since 2014 and last year he & his mate lost three nests to predation. Janet Thibault, a coastal bird biologist for SCDNR, posted new Nesting Area signs on April 30 and confirmed that there were eggs in the nest. 

At that time, we also found that Least Terns were nested in the same restricted area. The Leasties are still nesting and we may be reporting the arrival of their chicks any day. Much of what we say about American Oystercatchers holds for Least Terns as well.

Tuesday morning, I saw the first chick walking with U5. Today, there were two chicks and the family was already foraging along the lagoon behind the nesting area. They may not stay near the nesting area, so please be on the look out at all times and be careful to give them plenty of space. The chicks may be hidden in the wrack or in sparse vegetation especially in the heat of the day. Even a footprint or tire track may be a hiding place.

We originally worried about crows taking the eggs, but these chicks are not yet out of danger by any means. While I was approaching the nesting area Wednesday morning, I watched as one of the parents chased an Osprey away. Crows, gulls and other predators are always ready to pounce. Beach flooding from high tides and heavy rain also takes its toll. The chicks will not fledge (fly) for 30-35 days and the parents will tend to them for even longer (up to 60days). 

We are asking all beach drivers to avoid driving in the wrack or dry sand where the chicks are hard to see. But remember as it gets warmer, the parents may take the chicks to the water’s edge to forage and to cool off. All areas of the beach are prime Oystercatcher habitat. I have attached the Best Management Practices for Beach Driving from SCDNR.

Please excuse the fuzziness of these photos. They were taken at long range with a very long lens to avoid disturbing them. Please do the same and avoid trying to get close for cell phone photos. We’ll keep you informed of the chick’s progress with   current images as we get them.

Mark Andrews, Seabrook Island Shorebird Steward Program Co-Lead
American Oystercatcher U5 newly hatched chick on North Beach, Seabrook Island, SC
Photograph by Mark Andrews

A very special Thank You to Mark Andrews and all of the Seabrook Island Shorebird Stewards for volunteering to extend the steward season beyond Red Knots. Now the fun starts in helping these new additions survive to adulthood!