Nature conservation

Threatened species

Sooty Oystercatcher - profile

Indicative distribution

   Loading map...
The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Haematopus fuliginosus
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Profile last updated: 13 Jan 2022


The Sooty Oystercatcher is an unmistakable, large wader, reaching 50 cm in length. Like the Pied Oystercatcher, the Sooty Oystercatcher has a bright orange-red bill, eye-ring and iris, and coral pink legs and feet. However, the Sooty Oystercatcher has entirely black plumage. Sexes are separable when together, with the female having a longer, more slender bill. The call is similar to the Pied Oystercatcher's, although sharper and more piercing. Gives a loud whistling call before taking flight, and a piercing call if an intruder approaches the nest.


Sooty Oystercatchers are found around the entire Australian coast, including offshore islands, being most common in Bass Strait. Small numbers of the species are evenly distributed along the NSW coast. The availability of suitable nesting sites may limit populations.

Habitat and ecology

  • Favours rocky headlands, rocky shelves, exposed reefs with rock pools, beaches and muddy estuaries.
  • Forages on exposed rock or coral at low tide for foods such as limpets and mussels.
  • Breeds in spring and summer, almost exclusively on offshore islands, and occasionally on isolated promontories. The nest is a shallow scrape on the ground, or small mounds of pebbles, shells or seaweed when nesting among rocks.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Known Within 5 km of coast
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known None
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known Within 5 km of coast
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known Within 5 km of coast
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
OceanManning Shelf Known None
OceanSouth Pacific Ocean Known None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
OceanTwofold Shelf Known None
Ocean - Other StateSouthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known Within 5 km of coast
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known Within 5 km of coast
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Known Within 5 km of coast
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Known Within 5 km of coast
Sydney BasinHunter Known None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinSydney Cataract Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None