This Black Oystercatcher has an enviable beak. It’s hard and sharp to cut through the muscle that lets shellfish keep their shells closed. But as we see here, it also works like a needlenose plier; it lets the bird pry into deep crevices in and under rocks and pick out edibles. The dark tip of its bill indicates that it’s a juvenile. Adults usually pair up and mate for life. This one may not have mated yet, as it was the only bird of its kind in sight. Usually we see two and sometimes a small crowd.
The bird’s scientific name, Haematopus bachmani, is a case in point for the “Bird Names for Birds” campaign. John James Audubon named the bird for his friend the Rev. John Bachman (1790-1874), a South Carolina Lutheran minister who owned slaves and enthusiastically preached the inferiority of Black people and the sanctity of slavery. The “Bird Names” campaign advocates detaching the names of people from the common names of birds and substituting descriptive bird names. Rectifying the scientific names, as with this oystercatcher, is a further frontier. A name is a verbal statue in honor of the man. Birds deserve better than to be used as platforms to memorialize despicable figures from our history. Of course, the bird has no idea of the Latin label that has been hung around its neck. But I like to think that if it knew, it would object.