Haematopus ostralegus

Range & Status

Cornwall: 510 pairs probably breed annually, chiefly on the north coast. There are large numbers through autumn and winter on all major estuaries, with smaller numbers scattered on the coast; numbers peak at around 2000 in autumn. The main sites are Camel estuary (up to 600) and Tamar complex (up to 400). Isles of Scilly: good breeding population (150 pairs in 2000) scattered amongst islands, with up to 100 in autumn and winter.

Regional Distribution

Cornwall: some five pairs probably breed annually. Recent breeding reports have come from reedbeds in the Tamar Valley, Maer Lake, Marazion area and Gunwalloe. Widespread in winter when may be found in ones and twos in most swampy habitats. Isles of Scilly: winter visitor in small numbers; has bred but no recent records.

Habitat & Ecology

Favours wide estuaries with cockle and mussel beds. Breeds on shingle beaches, inshore islands and even cliff ledges.


Human disturbance of nesting beaches.


Most sites are SSSI. Protected under Annexe 11/2 of the European Union Conservation of Wild Birds Directive.