The regular Bluewater Bay and Amsterdam Hoek beach walkers are all atwitter about a strange and wonderful bird feeding on the mussel beds at the mouth of the Swartkops river at low tide.
As we all know, the usual African Black Oystercatcher sports jet black plumage, long red beak, long thin red legs but our “weird” Oystercatcher has the same characteristics except its plumage is a kind of grey mottled colour. This strange sight stopped many a beach walker right in their tracks!
Our regular bird guru, Dr Paul Martin reacted immediately to our call for help and set himself up with camera and equipment to study the visitor. This is what he said; “The structure of the bird (size, bill length, shape) seems to be the same as African Black Oystercatcher (ABO). From the sharp tipped bill it seems to be a female and the eye colour may possibly indicate an immature – but this could be part of its genetic malfunctioning.
“Apart from the obvious plumage aberration, the legs are more flesh coloured than the redder legs of the ABO, the bill is a more orange colour, the orbital ring is pinky orange rather than red and the eye is browny orange with a black pupil.
“I think it is probably African Black Oystercatcher but Bert Ophoff has done some research that show leucistic Eurasian Oystercatchers with similar plumage – so any opinions are most welcome.
“Abberations in ABO plumage are not unknown (around 2000 there was a battle-ship grey chick fledged at Cape Recife that moved to the Sundays River-Woody Cape coastline, retaining its grey plumage in adulthood), see also Roberts 7.”
There you have it folks! Why not bring yourself and your binocs and see for yourself? You may just enjoy a delightful visit to the beach at the same time.
Author of Fun in the Sun
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