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South Island pied oystercatcher

Status: Declining (click to see what this means)

Southern pied oyster-catcher or SIPO

South Island pied oystercatcher (SIPO), Rangitata River

Braided river status

Seen throughout New Zealand. They usually breed August-January inland in the South Island, mainly east of the Southern Alps on riverbeds and farmland, in sand scrapes on farmland or gravel banks in braided rivers. They are also known to breed on high country grasslands and in coastal areas adjacent to estuaries and lagoons where they are also found during the non-breeding season (distribution map).


One of two species of oystercatcher in New Zealand, the endemic South Island pied oystercatcher (Haematopus finschi) is also known as the New Zealand pied oystercatcher, Finsch’s oystercatcher, tōrea, torea (Māori), and SIPO. In coastal areas they are commonly seen feeding in bivalves (hence their name), small crustaceans, cnidarians (jellyfish) and fish. Further inlands they have been seen feeding on worms and small beetles.

South Island pied oystercatcher eating cockle photo by Steve Attwood

South Island pied oystercatcher eating bivalve


Measuring 46cm long and weighing between 550gm, the SIPO is a large, solidly built wading bird with a black back, head, and wings, with a clear delineation marking the white breast, a long bright orange bill, orange eyes, and stocky pink legs. The sexes are similar. Juveniles have a brownish tinge to their plumage, dusky red bill and dull pink legs.

South Island pied oystercatcher defence display

South Island pied oystercatcher defensive display


Their eggs are blotched dark and pale brown. See Taera for an image of their simple nest and eggs and to hear their call.

Conservation activities

More information

Research papers

  • Felton et al (2018) Response of beach-nesting American Oystercatchers to off-road vehicles: An experimental approach reveals physiological nuances and decreased nest attendance, BioOne/American Ornithology
  • Dowding & Moore (2006) Habitat networks of indigenous shorebirds in New Zealand,  SCIENCE FOR CONSERVATION 261 (DOC open access PDF part 1 and PDF part 2)